Which Alabama quarterback will USF see Sept. 16? Nick Saban’s not sure

Three candidates are competing for the spot vacated by Bryce Young, drafted No. 1 overall by the Panthers.
Alabama coach Nick Saban speaks to reporters during the SEC media days Wednesday morning in downtown Nashville.
Alabama coach Nick Saban speaks to reporters during the SEC media days Wednesday morning in downtown Nashville. [ GEORGE WALKER IV | AP ]
Published July 19|Updated July 19

NASHVILLE — Before reporters could pellet him with questions Wednesday about his quarterback derby, Alabama coach Nick Saban headed them off by getting folksy and philosophical.

More specifically, he kicked off his appearance at SEC media days by using a cake analogy to describe the ongoing three-player competition in Tuscaloosa.

“Grandma Saban used to bake the best cakes in the world, and I used to stand by the oven when I was a kid and say, ‘When’s this cake gonna be done? When’s this cake gonna be done?’ ” Saban told reporters at the Grand Hyatt Nashville.

“And she said, ‘If I don’t let it go through (the process), and take it out of the oven too soon, it’s going to turn to mush, so it won’t be a really good cake.’ So I think we’ve got to let this sort of develop and make sure we let the cake bake until somebody separates themselves.”

The local significance of this nationally-scrutinized derby? The Crimson Tide face USF at Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 16. By then, a starter presumably will have been sorted out. For now, Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner, two-year backup Jalen Milroe and former five-star recruit Ty Simpson are vying for the job.

While possessing arguably the most name recognition, Buchner is hardly a front-runner. The quintessential dual threat, he started three games at Notre Dame last season but missed 10 games with a shoulder injury. He struggled mightily in the Irish’s 2023 spring game (8-for-18, 44 yards, interception) even as Wake Forest transfer Sam Hartman excelled.

Milroe had his moments last season as Bryce Young’s backup. When Young was injured in the first half against Arkansas, the 6-foot-2 Texas native entered and led Alabama to five touchdowns in a 49-26 romp. In his first career start the following week against Texas A&M, he totaled 194 yards with three touchdown passes and a pick.

Simpson, a Tennessee native ranked as the No. 1 quarterback for the class of 2022 by the On3 consensus, made cameos in four games last season.

“I used the cake analogy because it’s not done yet,” Saban said. “There’s not a decision that needs to be made at this point in time, nor are we ready to make that decision at this time until somebody separates themselves.”

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