Nick Saban doesn't always need a 5-star QB like Ty Simpson to win at Alabama but it sure helps | Hurt

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News

There’s an eternal appeal to a story about an underdog, someone who achieves success through hard work and patience, waiting his turn and becoming the hero in the end.

The Mac Jones story is a good example. Not a five-star recruit, Jones chose Alabama after an original commitment to Kentucky, knowing he was going to have big-name competition, some carrying a constellation of stars awarded by the various recruiting services. But Jones made it: CFP national champion, Heisman Trophy finalist and likely to be a first-round NFL Draft selection, the classic American success story. 

To be honest, though, college football fans also like the flip side of that story, the one where you get the best recruits in the first place.

That is especially true with quarterbacks. There is a reason that NFL mock drafts are top-heavy with quarterbacks. Every owner, every general manager is looking for that franchise guy. College coaches are no different.

There is a reason why Alabama pursued Tua Tagovailoa across an entire continent and Bryce Young across most of the same terrain, excluding the Pacific Ocean. There is a reason why Mike Shula tried to establish residence on the couch at Tim Tebow’s house. There is a reason why the list of college playoff teams and the list of schools that can recruit elite quarterbacks is roughly the same. There is a reason why Clemson knew that three years of Trevor Lawrence would be three long years, a reason why Ohio State looked at its roster, didn’t see that type of quarterback and went to the transfer portal to get one. 

BEHIND THE DECISION:Why five-star QB Ty Simpson picked Alabama football over Clemson, Tennessee, others

RECRUITING:Alabama football lands QB Ty Simpson, first 5-star of 2022 class

Without making immediate assumptions, that’s what Alabama hopes it has in Ty Simpson. The five-star quarterback from Martin, Tennessee, is one of the top three pro-style quarterbacks in the 2022 class, according to The other two have committed to Ohio State and LSU, following the narrative.

It’s too early to place the burden of expectations on Simpson. For that matter, it’s too early to place them on Young as he enters spring practice. Simpson’s commitment will probably allow Alabama to concentrate on other positions in its 2022 class. There will certainly be a ripple effect on other quarterback prospects, including Tanner Bailey of nearby Gordo

Westview junior quarterback Ty Simpson celebrates after announcing his college football commitment to Alabama at Westview High School in Martin, Tenn., Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. Simpson, a five-star prospect for the Class of 2022, is the No. 3 rated pro-style quarterback in the country according to the 247Sports Composite.

It’s not like Alabama has been going through a quarterback recruiting drought. Plenty of talent, including five-stars Tagovailoa and Young, has signed with Nick Saban.

The ceremony at Simpson’s high school did have sort of an old-school SEC feel to it, with the other finalists being Tennessee and Clemson (which is not an SEC school but feels like one).

Setting aside the geographical trivia that Martin is closer to Tuscaloosa (284 miles) than it is to Knoxville (332 miles), the timing really didn’t give new UT coach Josh Heupel much of a chance, not with NCAA uncertainty surrounding the Vol program.

Alabama has lost quarterback commitments to home-state schools before: Drew Maye to North Carolina, Jake Fromm to Georgia. Simpson’s pledge seems secure.  

Dabo Swinney has strong selling points at Clemson (Deshaun Watson and Lawrence, to name two). But Tagovailoa broke Alabama’s long first-round quarterback drought last year and Bill O’Brien, the new Alabama offensive coordinator, has put quarterbacks into the NFL and also coached them there.

One more point: When Simpson and his father, UT-Martin coach Jason Martin, look at the recruiting class just ahead of Simpson, they see not just the protection of one offensive tackle but the two most-highly rated tackles in the country. They see running back Camar Wheaton. They see a second straight year in which Alabama has stacked receivers on top of receivers. In other words, they see an ideal situation for a young quarterback to succeed.

From the point that Simpson arrives at Alabama, presumably in December, the stars don’t count. Ask Mac Jones. But in terms of the 2022 recruiting class, Simpson gives Alabama a lynchpin. 

Reach Cecil Hurt at or via Twitter @cecilhurt