By: Garrett Franks
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. –If anything was abundantly clear from this year’s installment of A-Day, the quarterback battle will rage on well into fall camp.
Redshirt sophomore Jalen Milroe and redshirt freshman Ty Simpson leave the annual spring meet neck-to-neck, while true freshman Eli Holstein and Dylan Lonergan are on the outside looking in.
“I think the big thing we’re working on with the quarterbacks is fundamentally what they have to do in order to process what the defense is doing,” said Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban. “Trusting in that, believing in that, and not drifting around in the pocket before giving up with what your read might be—we have pretty good skill guys who can make plays.”
After both Milroe and Simpson showed bursts of athleticism, it was through the air where they struggled.
Milroe finished 19 of 37 for 245 yards with two touchdowns and two picks. Simpson couldn’t muster up much better, as he threw for 155 yards on 26 attempts with one interception.
Following up on Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Bryce Young will be no easy task. Along with his endless amount of awards and records, he provided a level of calmness in the pocket that is rarely seen at the college level.
It was A-Day in 2021 where Young showed his “calm under pressure” attitude that struck fear in the opponent’s eyes and endured him to his fellow teammate. In years past quarterback battles, much of what happens in the locker room determines who will trot onto the field in week one.
Freshman quarterbacks Holstein and Lonergan both had some nice moments but still seem far off from making an on-field impact.
“Both guys [Lonergan and Holstein] are making progress; I think Lonergan has shown he has a little bit more poise playing the position; he’s accurate throwing the ball,” said Saban. “But Eli has made good progress too, but he got into a hurry… but he also had a few balls that got dropped that would’ve helped him; we wanted to give each freshman three series out there.”
Saban went on to add that he believes both Lonergan and Holstein have bright futures.
In the current landscape of college football, the transfer portal is a way to beef up a position that may lack depth. While it’s a move Saban might consider, he spoke at length after the game about the advantages of having guys move up in the program.
“People who have been in the program have an advantage to some degree because they know the system and have had a lot of reps in the system,” said Saban. “I also think everyone needs to ask themselves, are they playing winning football at the position? But those are evaluations we need to make at every position. We’ve added guys in the past who have contributed greatly.”
Alabama is still a ways off from their first game on September 2 against Middle Tennessee State. The quarterback battle didn’t need to be decided today, nor would it have been had one of the quarterbacks played their best game. But it’s a lingering question heading into a summer full of quarterback transitions around the SEC. While other teams gained confidence through a quarterback’s performance during their spring game, the Alabama quarterback room will have a lot of work to do in order to gain that same fan confidence.
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