Alabama will have a new quarterback in 2023, likely replacing Bryce Young with one of Ty Simpson or Jalen Milroe (absent an unexpected transfer). While both quarterbacks are plenty talented and capable, On3’s J.D. PicKell thinks the transition from a Heisman-caliber player to a less-rarified tier of quarterback lends itself to Alabama looking a little more old-school.
While the Crimson Tide will surely still want to pass and hit downfield shots, PicKell expects a greater dosage of the power running and stout defense that defined Alabama during the first half of Nick Saban’s tenure as head coach in Tuscaloosa. In a lot of ways, the expectation is for “old ‘Bama” to make a comeback.
“And some of y’all are starting to perk up a bit now that we said old ‘Bama. You’re saying ‘OK, I like old ‘Bama. Old ‘Bama won a lot of national titles.’ Yes they did. Now the good news for ‘Bama fans, that formula of old ‘Bama is kind of like playing bully ball but also being balanced and throwing the football well and also playing good defense. That’s the kind of formula that teams are using to win right now,” PicKell said. “At one point in time it was ‘Let’s score 60, try and catch us.’ Shout out Joe Burrow and LSU. I think the game has leant itself a little bit more now to that balanced style of football that Alabama used to play. So you still have the vertical passing game, but it’s going to be very much in an effort to impose your will physically on the opposition.
“So that’s going to be ‘Bama. The balance is going to be what wins. And the quarterback position is going to be a part of that balance. Do not get it twisted.”
What Alabama needs from the quarterback to make an offense based on running and play-action shots work is simple: Be a game manager with upside.
PicKell explained that while many are immediately turned off by the game manager term, it’s really about limiting mistakes and keeping things on schedule within the structure of the offense. Any team would gladly take that. And the quarterbacks can provide the X factor to the offense, showing they’re more than a game manager, too.
PicKell made an unexpected comparison when explaining what he’d want out of either Alabama quarterback in 2023.
“Because whoever ends up being the Alabama quarterback, game manager is a part of that, but you need to be able to hit the open shot. Like I would think more J.J. McCarthy and less Jacob Coker, if you catch my drift,” PicKell said. “J.J. McCarthy, not to get too off track here, did a lot of things for Michigan last year where I don’t know if they win some of those football games — especially the Ohio State football game — if he doesn’t make the plays vertically that he makes. And when I say open shots, I mean we’re going to run the football at you so when those receivers get open, gotta hit ’em. Got to hit them. Because we don’t get too many more shots at that if we miss deep.”
In short, Alabama is replacing a Heisman winning quarterback with a player who is unproven and the way to protect against a big drop off is simple in PicKell’s eyes: Get back to dominating opponents in the trenches and run the ball.
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