Alabama’s Milroe, Simpson vying to replace Bryce Young

alabama football
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama is once again trying to replace an NFL-bound quarterback with another who can lead the Crimson Tide to championships.

Next up: Presumably Jalen Milroe, a dynamic runner with one career start, or five-star prospect Ty Simpson.

They’re vying to replace 2021 Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young, who appears poised to become the first Alabama passer picked No. 1 in the modern NFL draft. The Tide failed to make the College Football Playoffs even with him, potentially ratcheting up the pressure on whoever emerges as Young’s successor.

Now, he’s the latest Tide quarterback to leave early for the NFL, where Mac Jones, Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa are already starters.

The current competition figures to carry over into preseason camp after the Tide wrapped up spring practice Saturday with its spring game before an announced crowd of 58,710.

Alabama coach Nick Saban said a major focus has been on the quarterbacks being able to process what the defense is doing “and not start drifting around in the pocket before you give up on what your read might be.”

“As a quarterback, it’s not only just the plays that you can make – and I like both guys’ athleticism to be able to extend plays and get out of trouble and make plays with their feet,” Saban said. “At the same time, I think we’ve got to work on going through progressions and develop confidence in the passing game so that we can distribute the ball to other people who can make plays more effectively and more efficiently.”

Milroe and Simpson are relatively unknown commodities at the college level who were highly rated recruits. Simpson was rated the No. 25 overall prospect in 2022, according to the 247Sports composite rankings of the major recruiting sites. Milroe was the fourth-rated dual-threat QB in 2021 – just like Hurts was five years earlier. Now, Hurts is the NFL’s highest-paid player with the Philadelphia Eagles.

On Saturday, Milroe had a 35-yard touchdown run and a 36-yard touchdown pass, going 19-of-37 passing with two touchdowns while throwing a pair of interceptions.

Simpson also had a 45-yard scamper, though quarterbacks were wearing black, non-contact jerseys. The redshirt freshman was 12 of 26 for 155 yards with an interception.

Saban didn’t exactly rule out exploring options in the transfer portal when asked about the benefits of having quarterback candidates who have been in the system. The goal at every position, after all, is playing “winning football.”

“I think that’s a better answer to the question: Who can do that the best?” Saban said. “Those are evaluations that we have to make as coaches at every position. We’ve tried to build this program here with the guys that we recruit and the people in the program but we have had a few guys that have come in and made real impacts on the team.

“And if we see an opportunity to do that, we’re always looking for an opportunity to make our team better.”

Milroe got the most on-the-job training last season with Young’s shoulder injury. He finished the game against Arkansas and had a 77-yard rushing touchdown, then passed for three touchdowns in his lone start against Texas A&M.

Simpson got mop-up duty in four games and only attempted five passes, completing four for 35 yards.

Young wasn’t present when the 2022 team captains were honored by placing their hand and cleat prints in the cement at Denny Chimes near the stadium. No reason was given for his absence.

The only Alabama quarterback to be a No. 1 pick was Joe Namath in the 1965 AFL draft. It is big shoes to fill, especially in those mental aspects like understanding the defense and avoiding mistakes.

Offensive lineman JC Latham said Milroe and Simpson have been “just improving every single day.”

“I think after a summer of just being with them and jelling and just going over the plays,” Latham said, “I think we’ll be in great shape.”

Georgia extends contract for AD Josh Brooks, plans two new football practice fields

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ATHENS, Ga. – On the heels of a second straight national football championship, Georgia has rewarded athletic director Josh Brooks a contract extension that ties him to the Bulldogs through at least 2029.

The athletic association board, wrapping up its annual spring meeting Friday at a resort on Lake Oconee, also announced plans for a new track and field facility that will free up space for two more football practice fields.

Brooks’ new contract will increase his salary to $1.025 million a year, with annual raises of $100,000.

The 42-year-old Brooks, who took over the athletic department in 2021 after Greg McGarity retired, called the Georgia job “a dream for me” and said he hopes to spend the rest of his career in Athens.

“I am extremely grateful,” Brooks said. “I got into this business 20-plus years ago as a student equipment manager. My first job at Louisiana-Monroe was making $20,000 a year in football operations.”

The Georgia board approved a fiscal 2024 budget of $175.2 million, a nearly 8% increase from the most recent budget of $162.2 million and the sign of a prosperous program that is flush with money after its success on the gridiron.

The school received approval to move forward with its preliminary plans for a new track and field facility, which will be built across the street from the complex hosting the soccer and and softball teams.

The current track stadium is located adjacent to the Butts-Mehre athletic facility, which hosts the practice fields and training facilities for the football program.

Georgia lost a chunk of its outdoor fields when it built a new indoor practice facility. After the new track and field stadium is completed, the current space will be converted to two full-length, grass football practice fields at the request of coach Kirby Smart.

“He wants to find efficient ways to practice, and there is a lot of truth to the issues we’ve had with our current practice fields,” Brooks said. “There is a lot of strain on our turf facilities staff to keep that field in great shape when half the day it is getting shade, so that has been a challenge as well. For our football program, it is better to practice on grass fields than (artificial) turf, so to be able to have two side-by-side grass fields is huge. It makes for a much more efficient practice.”

The new track and field complex, which will continue to be named Spec Towns Track, will also include an indoor facility, the first of its kind in the state of Georgia.

Iowa AD Gary Barta announces retirement after 17 years at Big Ten school

Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa athletic director Gary Barta will retire on August 1 after 17 years at the university, the school announced Friday.

Barta, 59, is one of the longest-tenured athletic directors in a Power Five conference. He was hired by Iowa in 2006 after being the AD at Wyoming.

An interim director will be announced next week, Iowa said.

In September, Iowa hired former Ball State athletic director Beth Goetz to be deputy director of athletics and chief operating officer, putting her in position to possibly succeed Barta.

“It has been an absolute privilege and honor to serve in this role the past 17 years,” Barta said in a statement. “This decision didn’t come suddenly, nor did it come without significant thought, discussion, and prayer.”

“That said, I’m confident this is the right time for me and for my family.”

Iowa won four NCAA national team titles and 27 Big Ten team titles during Barta’s tenure. The women’s basketball team is coming off an appearance in the national championship game and the wrestling team is coming off a second-place finish at the NCAA championships.

Barta served as the chairman of the College Football Playoff committee in 2020 and 2021.

He faced heavy criticism over more than $11 million in settlements for lawsuits in recent years alleging racial and sexual discrimination within the athletic department.

Lawsuits filed by former field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum and associate athletics director Jane Meyer led to a $6.5 million payout.

Iowa had to pay $400,000 as part of a Title IX lawsuit brought by athletes after it cut four sports in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the agreement, Iowa reinstated the women’s swimming and diving program and add another women’s sport.

Iowa added women’s wrestling, the first among Power Five schools to compete this year.

A lawsuit brought by former football players alleging racial discrimination within the program was settled for $4.2 million last March, which prompted state auditor Rob Sand to call for Barta’s ouster.

“Gary Barta’s departure is a long time coming given the four different lawsuits for discrimination that cost Iowa more than $11 million,” Sand posted on Twitter.

The university did not allow taxpayer money to be used for the settlement with the former players.

Barta led Iowa through $380 million of facility upgrades, including renovation of Kinnick Stadium, the construction of a new football facility, a basketball practice facility and a training center for the wrestling teams.

Under Barta, Iowa has had just one head football coach (Kirk Ferentz), women’s basketball coach (Lisa Bluder) and wrestling coach (Tom Brands). All were in place when he arrived.

Barta has also come under scrutiny for allowing Ferentz to employee his son, Brian Ferentz, as offensive coordinator. To comply with the university’s nepotism policy, Brian Ferentz reports to Barta.