A look at Alabama's quarterback room after Mac Jones declares for NFL draft
The Mac Jones era has come and gone at Alabama. The Heisman finalist declared for the NFL draft on Thursday after tearing apart the record books this past season.
After waiting behind Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa earlier in his career, Jones passed for a school-best 4,500 yards while setting NCAA’s single-season records in completion percentage (77.4) and quarterback efficiency rating (203.06). Now he’s passing the torch to the next crop of Crimson Tide quarterbacks.
With the absence of Jones, Alabama’s quarterback room is light on experience but still features plenty of talent.
Five-star freshman Bryce Young served as the team’s backup last season, completing 13 of 22 (59.1 percent) passes for 156 yards and a touchdown over nine games. Redshirt freshman Paul Tyson didn’t make an appearance in any of the Tide’s 13 games but those in the program have said the Trussville, Ala. native has made strides in his two years with the program. Alabama is also bringing in a four-star freshman in this year’s class as Jalen Milroe comes to the Tide as the nation’s No. 3 dual-threat quarterback.
“I think we have a great room,” Jones said Thursday after announcing his decision to declare for the draft. “Paul and Bryce, they’re great guys. Both really smart guys. They’re gonna have to step up, but a lot of people expect that every year. You have people leave, and you got to step up and just be yourself. Those guys, they work really hard. Both different players. They’re going to lead this team, and I have all the faith in Coach Saban and my teammates we played with this past year that they’re going to do a great job supporting those guys.”
Here’s a look at Alabama’s quarterback room heading into next season.
Young didn’t get the opportunity to play up to his five-star potential this past season as Jones’ record-breaking year left little opportunities for meaningful snaps. Still, there were moments where the dynamic freshman captured the imagination of Crimson Tide fans.
Young’s best two moments came during Alabama’s 66-3 win over Kentucky. The dual-threat quarterback flashed his arm with a 35-yard strike to DeVonta Smith in the third quarter before showing off his mobility later in the drive, rolling out to his right to hit the Heisman winner for an 18-yard touchdown. Alabama should expect to see plenty more of that in the future.
“We're trying to get Bryce experience and obviously the more experience he gets, the more confidence that he'll have,” head coach Nick Saban said in December. “We've tried to put him in games where we left good players around him so that he would have some opportunities. And, you know, he's still learning and he's still growing and I think it's going to be important for us to continue to enhance his development so that if he has asked to play, he's going to be able to go in and play winning football for us.”
Through two years at Alabama, Tyson has taken just seven snaps behind center. However, it’s far too early to write off the redshirt freshman. The 6-foot-5, 228-pound pocket passer bulked up last offseason and earned praise from both Saban and former offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian for his progression in the system.
“For Paul, getting a year in the system just as a freshman, that’s huge for a guy,” Sarkisian said in August. “Just getting reps and when you’re going through it as a young player, sometimes things don’t make sense and then in Year 2 it’s like ‘Oh that’s why we call it this, that’s why we call it that.’”
In 24 games as a starter at Hewitt-Trussville High School, Tyson threw for more than 6,500 yards and 69 touchdowns with only 13 interceptions. He might not beat out Young for the starting job, but he offers nice depth at the position.
The last time Alabama brought in a freshman quarterback named Jalen from the Houston area, turned out pretty well. While it might be a stretch to expect Milroe to replicate Hurts’ early success with the Tide, he certainly appears to have a bright future in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Milroe comes to Alabama after winning 31 games over his three-year varsity career at Tompkins High School in Katy, Texas. The dual-threat passer completed 321 of 541 passes (59.3 percent) for 5,400 yards and 53 touchdowns with 14 interceptions, adding 1,208 yards and 22 more scores on the ground over that span.
If Alabama styles its offense to suit Young’s dual-threat abilities, Milroe offers a similar skillset off the bench. The Texas native is set to arrive at Alabama as an early enrollee this month, meaning he should get a head start at breaking into the offense this spring.