The Alabama Crimson Tide, dubbed No. 4 by the College Football Playoff committee earlier this month, will look to win their first national title since the 2020-2021 season, which begins with a semifinal matchup against the No. 1 Michigan Wolverines later this weekend.
The Crimson Tide saw a huge turn to their 2023 season when they beat the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship, propelling them into the playoff as a one-loss conference champion over the undefeated Florida State Seminoles.
But, it has been a major transition for Alabama in 2023, who lost 10 players to the NFL Draft, including quarterback Bryce Young and top running back Jahmyr Gibbs, who were both selected in the first round.
Rather than go in the direction of the transfer portal, as many playoff hopefuls did, the Crimson Tide turned to backup quarterback Jalen Milroe, who threw for 297 yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions at a 58.5 percent completion rate in limited action in 2022.
Upon earning the starting job, Milroe faced a tough challenge immediately, as Alabama hosted Texas in a non-conference matchup in Week 2.
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It ultimately was a tough 34-24 loss for the Crimson Tide, as Milroe threw two interceptions while completing just 51.8 percent of his passes, leaving questions about whether he could be the long-term starter for Alabama.
Milroe was benched the following week in favor of quarterbacks Tyler Buchner and Ty Simpson in Alabama’s 17-3 win over South Florida where the offense had experienced even more issues, making it clear that potentially the former option was the right guy for the Crimson Tide.
Milroe took the starting job back one week later against Ole Miss and never looked back, finishing the year with 2.718 yards, 23 touchdowns and six interceptions at a 65.5 percent completion rate in the air, while rushing for 12 touchdowns on the ground.
“I’d been splitting reps throughout the offseason. Even the Texas week, I was splitting some of the reps,” Milroe said earlier this season, via ESPN. “But after that meeting with Coach Saban, I felt like I could play freely and not be restricted. It’s been so different because now it’s my team and now it’s my offense. Now it’s me, Coach Saban and [offensive coordinator] Coach [Tommy] Rees all jelling together.”
Within a matter of weeks, Milroe went from being benched to an emerging star, and now will return to Alabama in 2024 with hopes of being one of the top quarterbacks selected in the 2025 NFL Draft.
The redshirt sophomore is not your regular quarterback; at 6’2, 220 pounds, Milroe has the build of a running back or a defensive back, and the signal-caller himself acknowledged the fact.
“When you look at me, you don’t think I play quarterback,” Milroe said, via The Athletic’s Kennington Smith III. “You think I play defensive back, tight end. You don’t think I played quarterback.”
“Growing up when I went to camp, they labeled me as a receiver or they saw me as not playing the quarterback position. With that, I beat all odds by playing quarterback, and that is something I try to do as much as possible, be an efficient quarterback, be the best version of myself playing the position, because at the end of the day, I want to be the best that I’m doing right now.”
However, as he progressed into college, Milroe still faced opposition to the fact that he was a quarterback, including even by his own offensive coordinator, Bill O’Brien, who left Alabama for the same position with the New England Patriots this offseason.
“My own offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien told me I shouldn’t play quarterback,” Milroe said earlier this week. “So there’s a lot of things I could have motivation on, and that’s motivation.”
One year later, Milroe was firmly in the Heisman conversation, finishing sixth in the voting, and is now leading a playoff team looking to win the championship.
Now, Milroe still has much to improve on, specifically his issues with taking sacks (38 this season) and questionable decision-making at times.
However, the quarterback has put it together when his team has needed him to, best showcased by his 31-yard touchdown pass to wideout Isaiah Bond on 4th & Goal against the Auburn Tigers to save Alabama’s season.
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To make matters even better, Milroe has played his best ball as the season has gone along, accounting for 17 touchdowns and just one turnover over his past five games, which included matchups against LSU and Georgia.
Now, he’ll look to cap it all off in the College Football Playoff, which starts with a difficult challenge against the Michigan Wolverines, who possess one of the best defenses in all of college football.
But, from a four-star recruit to being benched and now a budding star, Jalen Milroe’s progression into the next top Alabama quarterback has been one to watch.
Source : SBNation