3 expected questions for Alabama to answer at SEC Media Days
By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Sam Thornton
NASHVILLE-It’s here. SEC Media Days have arrived. Starting today, each SEC football program will address the media with impactful questions in mind for the upcoming season. The end of “talking season” is near, and it will conclude with answers from head coaches and players surrounding the most enticing storylines.
Alabama will face the podium at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee on Wednesday morning at roughly 9 a.m. CT. Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban will be present along with veteran leaders JC Latham, Kool-Aid McKinstry and Dallas Turner.
With anticipation and new leadership embedded in Saban’s staff, here are three expected questions the media will ask the Tide panel:
What’s the status of Alabama’s quarterback competition?
The topic with the most attention throughout the entire SEC offseason has belonged to the Tide quarterback battle. Redshirt sophomore Jalen Milroe, redshirt freshman Ty Simpson and junior transfer from Notre Dame Tyler Buchner will compete to the end of training camp to dictate the outcome of a starting nod.
Each potential starter holds their own style of play along with individual flaws, making it one of the most interesting quarterback duels in recent memory. Media members will certainly address the development of each play caller and how they’re adapting under new Alabama offensive coordinator Tommy Rees.
For Milroe, criticism surrounding his accuracy as a passer has been pondered. Last season when Milroe entered the contest for an injured Bryce Young in the second quarter against Arkansas on the road, his running ability and pure athleticism was highlighted by a 77-yard run to seal the game in Fayetteville.
Milroe’s skillset as a runner is rare, but his lone start against Texas A&M at home the following week exposed his lack of comfortability in the pocket. A 12 for 19 and 111 yard debut as a passer was just enough to squeak by an inconsistent Aggie team.
Simpson enters his second season in Tuscaloosa with increased upside. During Alabama’s spring game, Simpson delivered as the more consistent play caller. He led the Crimson team to a victory with 156 passing yards and 58 rushing yards despite throwing a pick.
Without starting experience, Simpson’s biggest question mark is his ability to properly manage games. He accomplished that on A-Day, but it’s uncertain how that will translate later into camp and perhaps into a starting role.
Buchner, a transfer from Notre Dame plays as the wrench thrown into the trio. After starting three games last season for the Irish before injury, he follows Rees to Tuscaloosa with established familiarity in his offensive system while both stationed at Notre Dame.
The idea of Buchner joining the Tide roster could be to forecast as a safety net if neither Milroe or Simpson pan out as the desired play caller this season. However, some analysts argue that Buchner has serious potential to compete for the starting role. He does have a head start on the offensive scheme Rees displays, making him the most intriguing candidate.
Saban will give updates on all three of the quarterbacks when asked on Wednesday. It will be a massive development and the most significant storyline to follow based on the hiring of new offensive personnel.
Saban’s response to SEC predictions
Poke the bear and you’ll get a response. SEC fans have seen the rally of recent “rat poison” distributed to Alabama over the last few seasons. That narrative has been elevated in 2023 with recent predictions of who will claim the SEC title and earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.
For Alabama’s standard, losing two games within a season means the end of the dynasty in the eyes of college football fanatics and critics. Georgia being crowned back-to-back national champions adds fuel to the fire.
Even with Georgia in the SEC East, several members of the college football media landscape believe that LSU will edge out Alabama for the SEC West title this season. LSU, having beaten Alabama last season in Death Valley, returns several key players including Heisman hopeful quarterback Jayden Daniels.
Predictions alluding to Alabama’s continued demise will be brought up to Saban while standing at the podium. If not directly asked, members of the media will query how this year’s team has established to a different culture from 2022. If recent comparison is brought up between rivals, there’s going to be some bulletin board material for Alabama.
SEC fans could be in for memorable responses if the gossip is extended to the Tide players in attendance. All three of the Tide standouts attending haven’t won a national title during their time in Tuscaloosa, making it an important season to continue the streak of each recruiting class winning a national title under Saban.
Even before addressing the media on Wednesday, the entire Crimson Tide program is aware of the doubt surrounding them. Expect the topic of continued uncertainty to be asked early and often from either in state or exterior media members.
Who will be Alabama’s “game changer” this season?
In 2019, it was Tua Tagovailoa. In 2020, it was Devonta Smith. The previous two seasons it belonged to Bryce Young. Even when the game seemed out of reach, these players always gave Alabama a chance to win.
Heading into 2023, there’s no indication on who that player will be. As a result, that’s a driving force in Alabama’s dominance fading over rival opponents. In order for the Tide to claim their 19th national title, one player needs to mold into that stature.
With that idea established, there will be several questions not only circling Alabama’s quarterback competition but also the weapons surrounding them. The Tide wideout room including key returners in Jermaine Burton, Ja’Corey Brooks and Kendrick Law will be essential to the success of Alabama’s offensive explosiveness.
What stands out more on the offensive depth chart is the running back room. Seniors Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams headline experience in the backfield. Incoming freshman standout Justice Haynes has generated the most excitement for the future of Alabama’s ground game.
The dynamic positions will be closely asked upon. How has each player improved during the offseason and what should viewers expect to see with these developing products under Rees?
More specifically, which players have emerged to provide that much needed lift for the starting play caller? In the modern SEC, there needs to be one or even a handful of game changers that can deliver in crunch time.
Georgia has All-American junior tight end Brock Bowers, LSU has Daniels. What will Alabama deliver?
The big picture
While SEC storylines will surround topics of competition, debate and perceived demise over Alabama football, there will be additional answers to focus on.
Saban’s avid involvement with the state of NIL in collegiate athletics will be discussed along with recruiting measurements. Every answer Saban and Tide players deliver will have significant gravity. However, the headway will focus on the redemption tour for 2023 in Tuscaloosa.
It will be one of the most important seasons for Alabama football in the Saban era. The outcome of the season will be one of triumph or continued national narrative decline. It all starts on Wednesday morning in Nashville.