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Alabama quarterback Jalen Melrow (4) runs back to throw during the first half of a football scrimmage at NCAA A-Day college football at Alabama, Saturday, April 22, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

Written by John Zennor, sports writer

TUSKALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama is once again trying to replace its NFL quarterback with one who can lead the Crimson Tide to championships.

Next up: Presumably Jalen Melroe, a dynamic runner with one career start, or five-star Ty Simpson.

They’re vying to replace 2024 Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young, who looks poised to become the first Alabama passer to be selected #1 in the recent NFL Draft. The Tide failed to make the College Football Playoffs even with him, which could add to the pressure on who would emerge as Young’s successor.

Now, he’s the latest Tide player to leave early for the NFL, where Mac Jones, Jalen Hurts, and Tua Tagovailoa have already started.

The current contest numbers will carry over into preseason camp after the Tide wrapped up spring training on Saturday with their spring game before announcing a crowd of 58,710.

Alabama coach Nick Saban said the main focus was on the quarterbacks being able to process what the defense is doing “and not start drifting into the pocket before you give up what you might be reading.”

“As a quarterback, it’s not just the plays you can make — and I like athleticism for players to be able to stretch plays and get out of trouble and make plays with their feet,” Saban said. “At the same time, I think we have to work on going forward and developing confidence in the passing game so that we can distribute the ball to other people who can play more effectively and efficiently.”

Milroe and Simpson are two relatively unknown commodities at the college level who were highly rated recruits. Simpson is ranked #25 in 2024, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings of major career sites. Milroe was the fourth-highest dual threat QB in 2024 — just like Hurts five years ago. Now, Hurts is the highest paid player in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles.

On Saturday, Milroe was running for 35 yards and a 36-yard touchdown pass, passing 19 of 37 passes for two touchdowns while throwing a pair of interceptions.

Simpson also had a 45-yard rusher, although the quarterbacks wore black non-touchdown jerseys. The freshman was 12-of-26 for 155 yards with an interception.

Saban did not completely rule out exploring options at the transfer gate when asked about the benefits of having quarterback candidates who were in the system. The goal in every position, after all, is to play “winning football”.

“I think this is a better answer to the question: Who can do it better?” Saban said. “These are assessments that we as coaches have to do in every position. We’ve tried to build this program here with the people we hire and the people on the program, but we’ve had a few people who come in and really make an impact on the team.

“And if we see an opportunity to do that, we always look for an opportunity to improve our team.”

Melro received the most on-the-job training last season due to Young’s shoulder injury. He finished the game against Arkansas and had a 77-yard rushing touchdown, then passed for three touchdowns in his only start against Texas A&M.

Simpson had a mop-up in four games and attempted only five passes, completing four passes for 35 yards.

Young was not present when the captains of the 2024 team were honored by having their hands handprinted and stapled into cement at the Denny Chimes near the stadium. No reason was given for his absence.

The only Alabama quarterback to be the first pick was Joe Namath in the 1965 NFL Draft. He’s a big shoe to fill, especially in mental aspects like understanding the defense and avoiding fouls.

Offensive Private J.C. Latham said that Melroe and Simpson are “getting better every day.”

Latham said, “I think after my summer with them and continuing to play and show plays, I think we’ll be in good shape.”


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