It's crazy to think that Alabama might just be getting started signing 5-star quarterbacks
Dare I say, the rich are about to get richer.
When 5-star quarterback Ty Simpson spurned the likes of Clemson and in-state Tennessee for Alabama, it confirmed something that’s become all too obvious to the outside world.
This 5-star quarterback thing in Tuscaloosa? Yeah, it’s just getting started.
Some might’ve scratched their head reading that sentence. Doesn’t Alabama get 5-star quarterbacks every year? Nope. If Simpson signs with Alabama in 2022, it’ll mark Alabama’s second 5-star quarterback in a 3-year stretch. That could also mark the first time that Alabama has multiple 5-star quarterbacks on the roster at the same time.
I know what you’re thinking. How is that possible?
Well, let’s look back at the 5-star quarterbacks during the Nick Saban era (5-star ranking according to 247sports composite):
- 2010 — Phillip Sims (transferred in May 2012)
- 2015 — Blake Barnett (transferred in Sept. 2016)
- 2017 — Tua Tagovailoa (left for NFL in Jan. 2020)
- 2020 — Bryce Young
- 2022 — Ty Simpson
I suppose if you want to count Tagovailoa being on the roster for those couple weeks before making his NFL decision while Young was enrolled, fine. But in terms of Alabama having 5-star quarterbacks on the depth chart at the same time, 2022 is now set up to be the first time for that.
Anyone who even casually follows college football can understand why that would be the case. Tagovailoa and Mac Jones just led the program’s most prolific offenses in school history. Alabama is no longer the school that has a starting quarterback complete 6 passes in a national championship. Now, Alabama is the school that, in all likelihood, has consecutive first-round quarterbacks. It’s the school set to put 4 receivers in the first round in a 2-year stretch. It’s the school that just had a wide receiver win the Heisman Trophy.
It’s the school that now does this whole “passing” thing at an elite level.
Lost in the shuffle of Simpson’s commitment was that it came in part thanks to the work of new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. It remains to be seen if he’ll scheme as well as his predecessor, but like Steve Sarkisian, O’Brien promptly stepped into the role and got a major commitment from a 5-star quarterback.
Simpson talked to ESPN about the role that O’Brien played in his recruitment, and that Alabama’s track record with sending players to the NFL mattered.
Uh, yeah. Why wouldn’t it?
If Jones, Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith all go in the top 16 — several of the latest mock drafts have that happening — Alabama will have had 7 offensive players drafted in the first half of Round 1 in a 2-year stretch (4 receivers, 2 quarterbacks, 1 offensive lineman). That’s something that even throughout this decade (plus) of dominance, we’ve never seen in Tuscaloosa. From 2008-19, how many offensive players did Alabama have drafted in the first 16 picks? Seven, and 5 of them were offensive linemen/running backs.
Think about that. This 2-year stretch is in position to match a 12-year stretch in terms of top-level offensive talent.
Now think about what 5-star quarterback wouldn’t want to go there.
Tagovailoa was, in many ways, the dawning of a new era at Alabama. Until Tagovailoa, Saban hadn’t had a first-round quarterback at Alabama. Tagovailoa was also the SEC’s only 5-star quarterback of the 2010s who earned an all-conference honor at the same school he signed with (Kyler Murray and Justin Fields were all-conference quarterbacks after they transferred outside the SEC).
There’s now proof of concept. In the last 3 years with 2 different coordinators and 2 different starting quarterbacks, Alabama’s passing offense ranked No. 6, No. 3 and No. 3. Not even Clemson or Oklahoma can claim top 6 passing offenses in each of the last 3 years.
The expectation is that Young will step in and continue that. Never mind the fact that Alabama ranks No. 126 of 127 FBS teams in percentage of returning offensive production. That doesn’t even account for the replacement of Sarkisian, AKA the 2020 Broyles Award winner as the top assistant in the sport.
The expectation is that Alabama will be as loaded as anyone at the game’s most important position. Gone are the days in which the Crimson Tide will go 4 classes without signing a 5-star quarterback. Even if Simpson slips to a 4-star by the time he signs on the dotted line, his commitment still served as a microcosm of what Alabama has evolved into.
It can take its brand new offensive coordinator and give a blue-chip quarterback recruit a pitch that’s second to none. Even Clemson, who has the Trevor Lawrence/Deshaun Watson angle, didn’t even win out. Simpson told ESPN that it was O’Brien’s experience working with Watson with the Houston Texans that helped sell him (spending 5 years in New England that Tom Brady guy apparently was also part of the pitch).
Alabama’s last 3 years could change the course of the next decade. It appears that Tagovailoa and Jones rewriting the record books yielded a 5-star quarterback migration to Tuscaloosa.
This 5-star quarterback migration feels different than Kevin Sumlin signing 5-star quarterbacks in consecutive cycles at Texas A&M in the post-Johnny Manziel craze (both transferred the same month). It doesn’t feel like Georgia, where Kirby Smart continues to stockpile 5-star quarterbacks even without a passing offense that has yet to be ranked in the top 40.
It feels like Alabama is on to a new chapter of its dynasty. And it might be the scariest one yet.