Alabama Football: Nick Saban doing what he has never done

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There are few things Alabama Football’s Nick Saban has not done in his 27-season college football head coaching career. If the subject of this discussion was Saban’s accomplishments, he has nothing left on an undone list, other than winning national championships in three successive seasons.

Words used to describe Nick Saban as a football coach are ‘steadfast, unwavering, resolute and disciplined.’ Yet, there are enough exceptions to suggest Saban is not resistant to change. Will he change one particular thing in 2023?

The one thing in question is whether will Saban, for the first time in his career, play three quarterbacks. Maybe he did so at LSU or Michigan State or Toledo, but at Alabama, Saban has never played more than two QBs except for mop-up duty. Typically Saban’s QB2 has a limited secondary role.

In a five-deep quarterback room for 2023, with no clear leader to be the Crimson Tide starter, will Saban deviate from his norm? There are Alabama football fans convinced playing both Jalen Milroe and either Ty Simpson or Tyler Buchner makes good sense.

While all three are capable of running in an RPO-based offense, Milroe is believed to be the most effective runner, if for no other reason than his outstanding speed. Simpson is believed to be the most accurate passer. Perhaps making opponents defend different skill sets is more valuable than continuity at quarterback.

Alabama Football and Quarterback Rotation

At Alabama, Saban has consistently followed the old quarterback theorem that if a team has two rotating QBs, it does not have one to be a game-changer in key moments.

If Saban is prepared to deviate and rotate two QBs, there could be a need to rotate three. Three, at least in the season-opener, seems possible. Unless clear separation occurs in the two fall camp scrimmages, the Middle Tennessee State game might be the final audition for QB1 and QB2.

That would mean giving the top QB trio a fairly equal distribution of snaps, with some being with the Crimson Tide’s first-team offense. Such a change by Saban is implausible, but it would have added value in making game preparation by the Longhorns unusually complicated.

If there is a rotating trio against the Blue Raiders, don’t look for it a week later against Texas. Using three in the season opener would not mean two Alabama QBs would be rotated against the Horns.

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A counter perspective to this discussion of scheming a rotation is Saban and Tommy Rees will select a QB1 on the basis of execution. The starter will be the guy who consistently makes the correct reads and commits the fewest turnovers. If one guy is well past the others in fall camp, there will be no frequent rotation when the season begins.