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Jumbo Package: Where does Alabama’s QB situation stand?

There’s a lot of rumors and questions flying around, but Nick Saban is happy to let things play out before we know Alabama’s QB for 2023

Austin Peay v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In case you missed it, Tyler Booker gave us some great quotes on The Next Round radio show.

“It’s when he gets the defense’s respect,” Booker said. “When the defense is like, ‘OK, let’s be on our Ps and Qs. So-and-so is out there now.’ But that’s the thing about this quarterback race – everybody’s getting that respect. And it might sound cliche, but it’s a really hard race.

“But the thing that we have to do as an offensive line is continue to support that quarterback, give him time – whoever’s back there – and give him the best chance to succeed. But everybody in that room is really battling together, battling to get better.”

Booker and several of Alabama’s offensive linemen have been vocal about their desire to be a more dominant unit this fall and shared their excitement about being more of a run-first offense under new coordinator Tommy Rees as the Tide looks to have more balance with a quarterback change. Being able to “make people quit” this fall begins with Alabama running the ball.

“We have to control what we can control, and that’s us just performing to our standard – that old school, ‘Bama way of play, that run-the-ball-down-your-throat way of play of Alabama,” Booker said. “We really didn’t have that last year, but this year we definitely do with me stepping up as as leader, with JC (Latham) stepping up even more as a leader, Seth (McLaughlin) stepping up even more as a leader.

“We all came together and said, ‘Look, we’ve gotta run the ball. In order to be successful, we have to run the ball and we have be dominant at doing that because that’s gonna open up the passing game for whoever our quarterback is and all of our great wide receivers.’”

By all accounts, it seems like Booker and J.C. Latham seem to be taking the lead in trying to set a mentality for this team. He also mentions the DJ Fluker and Landon Dickerson have both been around fall camp and helping with bringing in some fun as well as a mentality for domination.

This all sounds good to me. I am totally on board with a team whose tone is set by the OL. Obviously, there are still a lot of questions surrounding the QB and WRs, but having a great OL sure gives those positions a whole lot more wiggle room.

Now, I won’t link to anything because I don’t want to lean too far into stoking flames with unsubstantiated Twitter talk, but speaking of QB questions, after Saban’s comments on Tuesday about wanting a QB to “Force the coaches to play him,” there’s now rumors floating around out there that freshman Dylan Lonergan has been taking some 1st and 2nd team reps.

Talty from 247 (behind a paywall) did mention that Lonergan moved the ball against the first team defense in the last scrimmage and that the freshman has a certain poise and confidence about him... However, he also follows that by specifying that he should be a contender for the job next season.

While I’m not putting too much stock into these rumors yet (by all accounts, it still sounds like it’s between Milroe and Simpson), I wouldn’t put it past Saban to be giving Lonergan a little bit of a look. It’s not like it’s unprecedented — Jalen Hurts was an afterthought as a true freshman in 2016 as well up until like the week before the season opener.

So it’s something worth keeping an eye on, for sure.

Projected first-round picks

OLB Dallas Turner: Scouts’ in-depth review of Anderson before the 2023 draft seemed to draw eyeballs to Turner on the other side of the line, too. ESPN in July projected him as the top edge rusher in next year’s draft, and a possible top-5 or top-10 pick. ”Turner has the total package,” a scout told ESPN’s Matt Miller. “You’ll get some Micah Parsons comps there.”

CB Kool-Aid McKinstry: Another preseason first-team All-SEC pick and candidate for national defensive player of the year awards, McKinstry is receiving attention as the possible best cornerback in the 2024 draft class. ”McKinstry is the dude,” an AFC scout told ESPN’s Matt Miller. “He’s up there with [Derek] Stingley, Sauce [Gardner] & Co. as a college corner. He looks like a top-10 pick already.”

OT JC Latham: A second-year starter at right tackle, Latham acknowledged this week his offseason weight gain to 360 pounds was in part preparing him for the next level. “I understand that my career won’t end at Alabama,” he said. “Guys like Will Anderson that I’ll see again.” As a projected first-round pick, Latham could be blocking Anderson in the NFL as soon as 2024.

I think Kool-Aid is about as much of a lock as you’ll find. He’s got an NFL body already, and the production to back it up. He’d have likely been a top-20 pick in the 2023 draft if he could have left as a sophomore. So if he continues to show improvement in his second year as a starter (which, he almost certainly will), I think he’ll be in the conversation as a top-10 guy.

JC Latham is also a good bet. He has all the hype from high school, and was rock solid last year. Offensive tackles are very hard to find, so the NFL will absolutely look over any small warts and still draft Latham highly as long as he keeps up his play.

Dallas Turner is the interesting one. He looked like an unstoppable pass rusher in the final half of his freshman year, but didn’t match that production as full-time starter last year. He has the frame, rare athleticism, and a nicely developed blend of pass rush techniques, but hasn’t translated that into production, and he also showed some liabilities in some of the other aspects of being a linebacker.

Next, ESPN has Alabama at #4 in their preseason power rankings:

No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide (2)

Best case: National championship. The roster, top to bottom, is championship-caliber. Finishing in the top three of the recruiting rankings virtually every season for the past decade will do that. But at key positions, Alabama needs things to break exactly right. Whether it’s Tyler Buchner, Jalen Milroe or Ty Simpson, someone needs to separate himself at quarterback. And while the QB doesn’t necessarily have to be another Bryce Young, he does need to take care of the football and compliment what should be a solid running game with Jase McClellan, Roydell Williams, Jam Miller and the No. 1- (Richard Young) and No. 2-ranked backs (Justice Haynes) in the 2023 class. What’s more, the Tide needs to develop at receiver, and quickly, after taking a big step back last year in terms of creating separation and drops. Do that, and the offense will be solid enough to navigate a tricky SEC schedule. Remember, Alabama’s two losses last season came on the road and on the final play. And this season, both of those games — LSU and Tennessee — are at home.

Worst case: Three regular-season losses. The offense has a lot of what-ifs. Almost too many, in fact. Everyone will focus on the quarterback, but the lackluster play at receiver is almost as glaring an issue. Bryce Young was just so good that he covered up for it. Unless Ja’Corey Brooks or Isaiah Bond or someone else steps up in a big way, Alabama will struggle to score in crunch time. And if that happens, go ahead and chalk up back-to-back losses to LSU and Tennessee. From there, it’s hard to see Alabama winning both against Texas and on the road at Texas A&M. — Alex Scarborough

Too high? Too low? What do you think?