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Alabama’s top two quarterbacks each showed flashes of brilliance, but also made killer mistakes at the spring game in front of 58,710 at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday.
Sophomore Jalen Milroe threw a 27-yard strike on a dime betweeen two defenders that wide receiver Kendrick Law caught. Redshirt freshman Ty Simpson completed a perfect 57-yard bomb to wide receiver Jermaine Burton.
Milroe also threw two interceptions with one that didn’t appear to have an intended receiver. Simpson also threw an interception.
Milroe finished with impressive numbers – 19-of-37 passing for 245 yards and touchdown passes of 35 and 9 yards for the White team. He rushed for 45 yards on 13 carries with a 35-yard touchdown around seven sacks. Simpson hit 12 of 26 passes for 155 yards and rushed six times for 62 yards for the Crimson team, which won 30-21.
Alabama coach Nick Saban was not overjoyed.
“The big thing we’re working on with quarterbacks is, fundamentally, what they have to do to process what the defense is doing, get a pre-read of what they’re playing,” he said. “Are they playing Cover 2? Are they playing a three-deep zone?”
Nick Saban Wants Quarterbacks To Follow The Progressions
The key is not to just cut and run or cut and freelance, which Milroe has a tendency to do.
“So that you have a plan in your mind,” Saban said. “‘This is where I’m reading. This is where I’m going, and this is the progression I want to go through.’ And trust in that and believe in that, and not start drifting around in the pocket before you give up on what your read might be.”
Sometimes drifts work great, but too often they end in sacks or interceptions.
“We’ve got to work on going through progressions,” Saban said.
That will be the responsibility of new offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, who came to Alabama from Notre Dame. Previous offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien had the fortune of coaching 2021 Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young, who is expected to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday night. O’Brien left to become New England’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
And it’s not like Saban is just going to hand the offense over to Rees. He knows what it takes to win on offense because he has studied the game from the defensive coordinator perspective for so long, including his decades as a head coach.
Alabama Played 4 Quarterbacks In All
“As a quarterback, it’s not only just the plays you can make,” Saban said. “And I like both guys’ athleticism to be able to extend plays and get out of trouble and make plays with their feet, which they did a couple times today. But at the same time, we’ve got to develop confidence in the passing game, so we can distribute the ball to other people who can make plays more effectively and more efficiently.”
True freshmen quarterbacks Dylan Lonergan and Eli Holstein each got playing time as well. Lonergan completed 8 of 14 passes for 79 yards with a touchdown. Holstein hit 3 of 6 for 61 yards.
“But Eli’s made good progress,” Saban said. “I think he got in a hurry a few times, but he also had a couple of balls that were dropped. Dylan kind of moved the team a little better. I think they both have bright futures.”
Saban did like the attendance, which as usual dwarfed that of many other programs. LSU, for example, had about 12,000 at the same time Saturday.
“It was good to go out and play in front of the crowd,” Saban said. “I think that energizes the players to some degree. It goes a long way to helping people see what kind of passion we have for the football program here and how we support the team.”