What we learned about the quarterbacks after Alabama’s A-Day
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Alabama fans left Bryant-Denny Stadium after the A-Day game with some questions answered.
The most significant conversation has been the quarterback room.
Alabama has four players talented enough at the position; however, no one has separated as the leader. Jalen Milroe, Ty Simpson, Dylan Lonergan, and Eli Holstein have improved under new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees.
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Each quarterback had good moments and situations they would love to have back. The Crimson Tide does not need a Tua Tagovailoa or Bryce Young on this team to win a national championship, but here is what we learned from the quarterbacks.
Jalen Milroe puts Alabama fans in the mind of Blake Sims.
Sims did not have the greatest spring game performance in 2014 and got written off. He worked on his craft in the summer and impressed Nick Saban in fall camp. Sims proved against West Virginia that he could run the team, and the pace of the offense sped up once Lane Kiffin saw Sims was ready to go faster. Milroe is more explosive than Sims as an athlete, but the qualities are similar for both. Milroe had positive moments in the passing game, including two touchdowns to Emmanuel Henderson and Malik Benson on beautiful balls. He showed off his athleticism on a 36-yard touchdown run for the first-team (White) offense.
Milroe had two interceptions from defensive pressure, but he would make a good game manager. Some feel he is not the guy for the job; however, all Milroe needs is to put the pieces together. He has to play with a level of consistency and protect the ball.
Alabama can win a national championship with Milroe if he makes the right reads, protects the ball, and Rees uses his athletic abilities.
Ty Simpson arguably had the best spring if one removes the stats.
The redshirt freshman suffered from dropped passes.
He had several good balls that should have been touchdowns, but the wide receivers did not finish the play. He recorded 155 passing yards on 12 completions and showed his athleticism, leading the Crimson offense with 58 rushing yards on six attempts.
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Simpson had a long 45-yard run and a play where he juked a defender. He can give Alabama something higher than a game manager, especially with his arm talent. As a former five-star from Tennessee, Simpson got into a rhythm during a drive in the spring game. He started carving up the defense until redshirt freshman Earl Little II made an athletic interception off him.
Most feel Simpson is the one to put Alabama in the best spot to win a national championship.
If we based everything on stats alone, neither Milroe nor Simpson would be Alabama’s starter.
Dylan Lonergan, a true freshman, had the best numbers. As a four-star from Georgia, Nick Saban highlighted him as a quarterback that can ‘move the offense.’ He played quarterback and pitcher (baseball) for Brookwood High School.
Brookwood is a powerhouse program in North Georgia. Lonergan looked confident running the offense, leading an 80-yard drive (nine plays) in the second quarter that finished on a touchdown pass to Justice Haynes. He had no fear or nerves on the field, and his baseball success translates well to the gridiron. Lonergan can process information quickly. He is not at the front of the conversation, but I would not be surprised if he gets first-team reps during the summer or fall camp to push Milroe and Simpson.
Eli Holstein improved in spring practice.
He completed three passes, including a 35-yard strike to Ja’Corey Brooks. Holstein has the size, arm strength, and potential, but he is growing in his poise and handling defenses. He bobbled a snap that led to him getting sacked and tossed an interception to Terrion Arnold, but he will learn from that. As a Louisiana native, Holstein has a very strong upside.
Nobody separated in Alabama’s quarterback room, despite each one improving.
The competition will go into fall camp and it could take a game or two to decide it. Hopefully, one of these four pulls away in preseason camp. The Tide has a strong room of players for Tommy Rees to coach. We saw a lot of good things and the areas to improve are correctable. It will be interesting to see who puts in the most work in the summer.
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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.