Alabama football’s three biggest storylines entering 2023 preseason camp

Alabama football players will report to camp Wednesday before the first preseason practice starts on Thursday. The 2023 college football season is nearly upon us.
Before the Crimson Tide players buckle their chinstraps and take the field, here’s the three biggest storylines entering preseason camp.
The quarterback question
Nick Saban hasn’t named his starting quarterback yet. That’s a big deal in Tuscaloosa, with the Crimson Tide needing to replace Bryce Young, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
At SEC Media Days in Nashville, Saban used his grandmother’s cake-making abilities as an illustration for where the competition is at the position.
“We have three guys that are competing for that position right now,” Saban said. “All of those players are getting better, and it’s important for us that all those players get better. I don’t think anybody has actually separated themselves yet, and I don’t think it’s something that we are trying to rush.”
The contenders are returners Jalen Milroe and Ty Simpson, plus Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner. Milroe, now a redshirt sophomore, was Young’s primary backup last season, but by no means has a lock on the job.
Milroe completed 12 of 19 passes for 111 yards, three touchdowns and an interception in his lone start against Texas A&M.
Simpson played sparingly last year but was the higher-ranked recruit coming out of high school. The redshirt freshman completed four of his five passes for 25 yards in 2022, appearing against Utah State, ULM, Austin Peay and Vanderbilt.
Buchner was thought to be Notre Dame’s starter going into last season but missed most of the year with an injury. He returned to start in the Gator Bowl against South Carolina, passing for three touchdowns and running for two more and leading the Fighting Irish to victory.
“Just a guy that you can tell his teammates had a great respect for him,” South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said of Buchner at SEC Media Days. “Rallied around him and certainly a guy they had a lot of confidence in at Notre Dame.”
There are other position battles to be settled, but quarterback will be the most visible before the Tide take on Middle Tennessee State.
Meet the new boss(es)
After the 2022 season, Alabama turned over both coordinator jobs. DC Pete Golding headed to Oxford, taking the same job under Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss, while Bill O’Brian joined Bill Belichick’s staff with the NFL’s New England Patriots.
In their places, Tommy Rees takes over the offense after filling the same coordinator role at Notre Dame, and Kevin Steele returns on defense.
" I think the most important thing is probably relationships,” Saban said of replacing coordinators at media days. “When you’re a coordinator, you’re in a leadership position for the players on that side of the ball. So to have good relationships in terms of how you present, how you motivate, and the players trusting and respecting in the things that you’re trying to implement in the things that we do; that they trust and believe that that’s going to help them be successful.”
Steele has been around before. He was Saban’s first defensive coordinator when he came to Alabama, serving in the role from 2007-08, and also worked in Tuscaloosa in 2013 and 2014.
Rees will coach in the SEC for the first time. Saban had high praise for the 31-year-old at media days.
Tommy Rees is one of the brightest young guys that I’ve seen in a long time in this business,” he said. “And he’s been a great addition and brought a lot of positives to the offensive side of the ball in terms of his ideas and how he relates to players, how he presents to players, his energy and enthusiasm on the field has been contagious.”
Something to prove?
Saban isn’t one to emphasize results. Always the process.
He explained why in Nashville.
“I’m not here to create expectations for our team,” Saban said. “Lots of people will do that, but expectations in some way are a premeditated way to create disappointment. I think you can look at it in your life and that’s why I say we need to say process-oriented, not focused on the outcome, but focused on the things that we need to do to get the outcome that we want”
Still, this is Alabama football and expectations are there, if not from Saban himself, then certainly from the fans. Kirby Smart’s Georgia program has won the last two national titles, and the Tide didn’t make the SEC title game or the College Football Playoff last season.
Alabama will want to return to the top in 2023. Young is gone, and so is Will Anderson among others, but the supporting cast for their replacements looks like it could be stronger than last season.
The season doesn’t kick off until Sept. 2, when MTSU comes to Bryant-Denny Stadium. But Saban’s process continues Thursday when the Crimson Tide takes the practice field.

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