Ranking every Alabama starting quarterback in the 21st century
The rise of Alabama’s current dynasty is multilayered.
Insanely high-level recruiting. Consistently some of the best defenses in the country. Nick Saban’s prowess.
And remarkably consistent quarterback play.
Since 2000, 12 young men have attempted 100 or more passes for the Crimson Tide. Seven completed more than 62% of their throws. Their combined touchdown-to-interception ratio is 2.8/1.
Alabama’s offense hasn’t always put up gargantuan, eye-popping numbers. But like the rest of the program, it’s steady.
We ranked the QBs who have steered the ship the first two decades of the 21st century:
12. Spencer Pennington, 2002-04
Remember Spencer? He started 7 games for the Tide in 2004 before leaving the football team to focus on baseball.
11. Andrew Zow, 1998-01
Zow split time with Tyler Watts from 1999-2001, finishing his career with 5,983 yards passing. That still ranks 5th all-time in Tide history. Today, Zow is the head coach at Sylacauga High School in central Alabama.
10. Tyler Watts, 1999-02
Zow threw for more yards, but Watts had the better passer rating (131). He also brought another dimension with his feet, rushing for over 1,128 yards during his time in Tuscaloosa.
9. Mac Jones, 2018-?
Jones is hard to rank due to the sheer small sample size we’ve seen. His talent was on display in relief of Tua Tagovailoa last season, as Jones totaled 1,500 yards, 14 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions. Those averages suggest he’s the next in line to put up huge numbers.
8. Jake Coker, 2014-15
Coker sure had to wait his turn before making his mark on college football history. After transferring from Florida State, he backed up Blake Sims for a year before leading ‘Bama to the 2015 national championship. Sure he handed off a bunch to Heisman winner Derrick Henry, who set the SEC single-season rushing record with 2,219 yards. But Coker also threw for 3,110 yards and 21 TDs. At the time, he became just the 3rd Tide QB to top 3,000 yards in a season.
7. Brodie Croyle, 2002-05
Croyle’s place in the record books is marred by injury. But his 2,499 yards passing in 2005 were the highest single-season total in program history. (Others since have soared past it.) Croyle ranks 4th all-time with 6,382 yards and 5th with 41 career TD passes. Quite simply, his supporting cast wasn’t as good as some of the others on this list.
6. John Parker Wilson, 2005-08
The 3-year starter handed Saban his first division title at Alabama in 2008. Wilson also set program records for career yards (7,924) and TD passes (47). He remains in the top 5 in both categories.
5. Blake Sims
Sims was one of those players with so much talent, you couldn’t keep him off the field. After 3 years playing running back and backup quarterback, Sims threw for a program-record 3,487 yards in 14 starts as a senior. (That total now ranks 2nd in Tide history.) That Bama team lost to eventual national champ Ohio State in the College Football Playoff.
4. Greg McElroy, 2007-10
The quarterback of the 2009 BCS National Championship team threw for almost 5,700 yards and compiled a 155.4 passer rating during 4 seasons under Saban. He’s one of the smartest to ever strap ’em up, too, having graduated in 3 years, earning a Master’s, scoring a 43 out of 50 on the NFL combine’s Wonderlic Test and now working as an analyst for ESPN.
3. Jalen Hurts, 2016-18
Before transferring to Oklahoma and finishing out his collegiate career, Hurts compiled a 148.8 passer rating, 5,626 yards passing and 48 touchdowns in 42 games for Saban. He was named the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Year as a freshman, when he led the Tide to the National Championship Game. He was the starting QB on the 2017 national championship team. His fantastic handling of his competition with Tagovailoa shouldn’t be forgotten, either.
2. AJ McCarron, 2010-13
No Bama QB has appeared in more games this century than McCarron (49). The current Houston Texan is the only quarterback to win back-to-back BCS national championships. McCarron was the first Tide QB to throw for 3,000 yards, registering 3,063 in 2013. He holds the program record for most career yards (9,019) and left school as the Tide’s all-time leader in TD passes, too, with 77. Tua Tagovailoa broke that mark, but nobody can top McCarron’s 99-yard TD pass to Amari Cooper in the 2013 Iron Bowl.
1. Tua Tagovailoa, 2017-19
A passer rating of 199.4. A program-record 87 career touchdown passes, including the most memorable one, perhaps, in college football history: the 2nd-and-26 walkoff rainbow to DeVonta Smith to win the 2017 national championship. He followed that by throwing a program-record 43 TD passes in 2018. A 69.3% completion rate. And those are just the numbers. The bar was already set high for Tua, but he somehow surpassed it during his 3 years with the Tide.