Saban still quiet on Alabama quarterback; Stockstill preparing for someone talented

Crimson Tide photos / Alabama redshirt sophomore quarterback Jalen Milroe, who started last season's game against Texas A&M when Bryce Young was injured, has been vying to claim the starting spot this season.
Crimson Tide photos / Alabama redshirt sophomore quarterback Jalen Milroe, who started last season's game against Texas A&M when Bryce Young was injured, has been vying to claim the starting spot this season.

Game week has arrived at the University of Alabama.

The announcement of a starting quarterback has not.

With the No. 4 Crimson Tide set to open Nick Saban’s 17th season in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night (7:30 on SEC Network) against Middle Tennessee State inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, neither redshirt sophomore Jalen Milroe, redshirt freshman Ty Simpson nor Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner has been revealed as Bryce Young’s successor.

“We’re going one day at a time, and we’re repping the players,” Saban said Monday in a news conference. “Regardless of what happens in this game, and it’s the same thing that I told you guys before, whoever starts in the first game doesn’t mean you don’t have to continue to compete and play throughout the season.

“The competition doesn’t end with the first game at any position, including quarterback, so my expectation is what we can do to get them better today so that we can play better the next day and the next day.”

Saban added that he has “no expectations” when asked if he could use multiple quarterbacks against Rick Stockstill’s Blue Raiders.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Milroe played in eight of the Crimson Tide’s 13 games last season, completing 31 of 53 passes for 297 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions. He was far more dangerous as a runner, amassing 31 carries for 263 yards and a score.

Simpson (6-2, 203) got in four games a year ago, while Buchner (6-1, 215) played in 13 career contests with the Irish, including three starts. The redshirt sophomore’s offensive coordinator in South Bend was Tommy Rees, who is now in his first year calling plays at Alabama.

Stockstill was asked about the uncertainty of Alabama’s starting quarterback during his news gathering in Murfreesboro.

“I don’t know what to expect,” Stockstill said. “It’s not my team. We’ve watched a little bit of all those guys, and we’ll prepare for whoever comes out there, and that’s really all you can do. You can’t worry about who they’re going to play or what they’re going to do.

“We can only control what we can control. Whoever they put out there is going to be talented.”

Stockstill took over MTSU the year before Saban landed in Tuscaloosa, making him college football’s fourth longest-tenured coach at his Bowl Subdivision program behind Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz (25th season), Utah’s Kyle Whittingham OVERSET FOLLOWS:(19th) and Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy (19th). He has guided the Blue Raiders to a 109-103 record, with last year’s team winning at Miami 45-31 and closing with four straight victories, including a 25-23 topping of San Diego State in the Hawaii Bowl to complete an 8-5 record.

Given all the things Stockstill has experienced through the years, two new coordinators in Tuscaloosa aren’t going to rattle him.

“When you look at Alabama when they’ve had coordinator changes, schematically they haven’t changed that much,” he said. “This is the third time that Kevin Steele, the defensive coordinator, has been with Coach Saban at Alabama. He was at Miami last year as defensive coordinator, and what they did at Miami had some similarity to what he had done at Alabama before.

“We’re preparing for Alabama. We’ve watched a little bit of Notre Dame, and we’ve watched a little bit of Miami, but we’ve watched a lot of Alabama.”

Alabama has won all three previous meetings against MTSU escaping 39-34 in 2002 before posting the more comfortable triumphs of 26-7 in 2005 and 37-10 in 2015. The 2015 matchup is the only one between Saban’s Tide and Stockstill’s Blue Raiders.

“Obviously we’ve got a tremendous challenge and a tremendous opportunity with Alabama, one of the best teams in the country,” Stockstill said. “They lose two games last year by a total of four points, and everybody thinks the sky is falling down there. This is a really, really talented team.

“We’ve got to play well, and we expect to play well. Our objective is to win this game, but to do that we’ve got to play clean and smart.”

Eye on the clock

Stockstill serves on the NCAA rules committee and was asked about the clock changes and how they affected this past weekend’s action. There were only seven games involving FBS teams Saturday, with those contests averaging 63.3 plays and three hours and 24 minutes.

Last year’s FBS games averaged 68.7 plays and 3:27.

“They’re talking about taking anywhere from five to seven plays out of a game,” Stockstill said. “When you watch a game on TV, you’re not sitting there saying, ‘That’s 58. That’s 59.’ To the naked eye, I don’t think we were sitting there thinking, ‘That was a really fast game,’ but it will take a little bit for people to get used to that clock not stopping.

“The one thing that came up to me is no longer being able to call back-to-back time outs. I believe it was UTEP that called a time out and then had a substitution deal right after the time out and didn’t get the play off. They called another time out, so that was a 5-yard penalty.”

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