Nick Saban Picking Among Portal Leftovers For A QB? Lane Kiffin Is Laughing!

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I can almost hear Lane Kiffin laughing.

While Alabama coach Nick Saban picked among the leftovers of average quarterbacks in the NCAA Transfer Portal this week, the Ole Miss coach might as well have relaxed on a leather sofa. He didn’t need to add anybody.

To the early portal birds, the spoils of victory.

To the late, the bones of procrastination.

On Thursday, Saban gained a commitment from a backup quarterback at Notre Dame – sophomore Tyler Buchner – with just a few days remaining in the spring portal window. Players have until Sunday at midnight to enter the portal.

Buchner will join four other backup quarterbacks at Alabama, none of whom yet look much like a real starter. Buchner has started only three games in his career – all at Notre Dame last season. He threw three touchdowns and five interceptions.

Putting things off is not a practice Saban, 71, does much. He is one of the most organized human beings on the planet. But he hates this portal crap, believe me. When you have been the best recruiter in college football since 2000, the portal goes against all your work and skill sharpened over five decades. It goes against everything you stand for in the way of commitment of players and those players patiently building toward a goal.

Kiffin, 47, does not really like recruiting in a classic sense – signings players out of high school. He likes this portal stuff, though. And he did his work early during the first portal period from Dec. 5, 2022, through Jan. 18, 2023.

On Jan. 19 – one day after players could enter the portal – Kiffin gained a commitment from graduate transfer Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders. He has started 42 games in his career and thrown for 9,553 yards with 67 touchdowns and 40 interceptions. He was first team All-Big 12 in 2021 after throwing a league-high 3,507 yards. Sanders is 31-11 as a starter. A shoulder injury from last season bothered him during spring drills, but he is expected to be as good as ever by the season.

Saban knew in 2021 he wouldn’t have quarterback Bryce Young coming back for 2023. And he knew by last December that questions abounded at quarterback with only sophomore Jalen Milroe, redshirt freshman Ty Simmons and two 2023 signees at the position post-Young. So why not go for Sanders? Surely, he would have given the Tide a look.

Oh, and Kiffin also acquired LSU freshman quarterback Walker Howard the day before he got Sanders. Sanders is better than anybody Alabama has now, and Howard may be better than anybody Alabama has by this time next year – if he’s not already. A five-star prospect, Walker signed with LSU in 2022 as the No. 5 quarterback in the nation by 247 Sports.

It remains a mystery why LSU coach Brian Kelly let Howard go in favor of the erratic Garrett Nussmeier, a sophomore who will enter 2023 as Jayden Daniels’ backup. Kiffin’s probably still laughing at that one, too.

Oh, and Kiffin also has junior quarterback Jaxson Dart, who started 12 games last season for the Rebels after transferring in from USC, where he started three times in 2021.

Alabama QB Situation Embarrassing Compared To Ole Miss

So, Kiffin has an embarrassment of riches – embarrassing to Saban, that is.

“The quarterback room is dramatically in a much better position than it was a year ago,” Kiffin said after adding Howard and Sanders.

Saban did not sound as excited when asked about Buchner before the NFL Draft on ESPN Thursday night – moments before Young became the first Alabama quarterback to be the first overall pick. The next one is not in the current group for sure.

“We felt like we needed to add some competition to the room,” Saban said.

Alabama fans are not even that overjoyed.

Saban simply added another chair that is remarkably similar to the Milroe chair. Both could be folding chairs, too, if you will. And Saban still doesn’t have a sofa. Meanwhile, Kiffin’s basically got a sofa and a couple of love seats.

Tyler Buchner Was Notre Dame’s Backup QB

Buchner was not going to beat out Notre Dame senior quarterback Sam Hartman, who transferred in from Wake Forest. Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman was also early to the portal, unlike Saban.

Hartman announced on Jan. 5 he was headed to South Bend, Indiana. Hartman started 45 games between 2018 and 2022 with a red-shirt season in 2019. He has thrown for 12,967 yards and 110 touchdowns with 41 interceptions. He finished 14th in the nation last year in efficiency at 159.4 on 270-of-428 passing for 3,701 yards and 38 touchdowns with 12 interceptions.

I’m thinking Hartman would have considered a move to Alabama last December.

Even Kentucky got a better quarterback in the portal than Alabama. North Carolina State junior Devin Leary announced he was transferring to the Wildcats on Jan. 26. He started 20 games for the Wolfpack and threw for 5,542 yards and 51 touchdowns with 12 interceptions.

And yes, Leary may have thought he would have a better chance of winning the Heisman Trophy and a national championship at Alabama than at Kentucky.

Nick Saban QB Portal Process Akin To Late Round Draft Picks

It’s like Saban and Alabama missed the first three rounds of the NFL Draft and went looking for a quarterback on the Saturday in rounds four through seven.

In the end, Saban only got more depth and another version of Milroe. Buchner can run. He rushed for 61 yards on 12 carries in a 45-38 win over South Carolina in the Gator Bowl. He is tough, too. After cracking his collarbone in a 26-21 loss to Marshall in the second game of the season, Buchner returned ahead of schedule to start the Gator Bowl.

He completed 18 of 33 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns against the Gamecocks. His 16-yard touchdown pass with 1:38 left was the game winner after he drove the Irish 80 yards in 12 plays.

“He played really well,” Saban said of the bowl game.

But he brought the team back from himself. He threw three interceptions in that game, including two pick sixes. He was 1-2 as a starter. In the Marshall loss, he also threw two interceptions. In a 21-10 loss to Ohio State in the opener, he was 10 of 18 for 177 yards.

Milroe only started one game last season when Young was hurt. He completed 12 of 19 passes for 111 yards and three touchdowns in a 24-20 win over Texas A&M while rushing 17 times for 83 yards. He is a better runner than Buchner and probably about the same as a passer.

Milroe also showed strength in the moment. He had to replace Young in the second quarter at Arkansas and impressively finished off a 49-26 win. Milroe completed 4 of 9 passes for 65 yards with a touchdown and rushed six times for 91 yards with a spectacular, 77-yard jaunt that set up a touchdown.

Like Milroe and Simpson, at the moment, Buchner is OK. And that’s it. The best thing he has going for him is Alabama’s new offensive coordinator Tommy Rees recruited him to and coached him at Notre Dame. But if Buchner was really good now, someone would have got him back in January. And if Milroe was really good now, he would have taken over the position in spring drills. He did not.

“We’d rather make it work with the guys that understand the culture in our program,” Saban said before getting Buchner.

That’s Old School, and not in a good way.

As far as Alabama’s quarterback position entering 2023, Saban and company are already late for school.

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau joined OutKick as an SEC columnist in September of 2021 after covering LSU and the Saints for 17 years at USA TODAY Louisiana. He has been a national columnist/feature writer since the summer of 2022, covering college football, basketball and baseball with some NFL, NBA, MLB, TV and Movies and general assignment, including hot dog taste tests.

A New Orleans native and Mizzou graduate, he has consistently won Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) awards since covering Alabama and Auburn at the Mobile Press-Register (1993-98) and LSU and the Saints at the Baton Rouge Advocate (1998-2004). In 2021, Guilbeau won an FWAA 1st for a game feature, placed in APSE Beat Writing, Breaking News and Explanatory, and won Beat Writer of the Year from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA). He won an FWAA columnist 1st in 2017 and was FWAA's top overall winner in 2016 with 1st in game story, 2nd in columns, and features honorable mention.

Guilbeau completed a book in 2022 about LSU's five-time national champion coach - "Everything Matters In Baseball: The Skip Bertman Story" - that is available at, and Barnes & Noble outlets. He lives in Baton Rouge with his wife, the former Michelle Millhollon of Thibodaux who previously covered politics for the Baton Rouge Advocate and is a communications director.

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