Jalen Milroe is back as Alabama's starting quarterback, and Kevin Steele is still Nick Saban's defensive coordinator.
With his No. 13 Crimson Tide set to open Southeastern Conference play this Saturday against No. 15 Ole Miss inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, Saban announced Monday that Milroe would start after missing this past weekend's 17-3 downing of South Florida in Tampa. Tyler Buchner got the nod against the Bulls but was replaced late in the first half by Ty Simpson, who rallied Alabama from a 3-0 deficit.
Milroe started the Crimson Tide's first two games, which yielded a 56-7 rout of Middle Tennessee and a 34-24 loss to Texas.
"Jalen really showed the leadership that I was looking for during the game in terms of supporting his teammates and doing the things he needed to do," Saban said in a news conference. "He's had the opportunity to play, as have the other guys, and Jalen played the best of all those guys.
"I think he's earned the opportunity to be the quarterback."
Milroe, who started for an injured Bryce Young in last October's 24-20 win over Texas A&M, is the most athletic quarterback of the three and has completed 27 of 45 passes (60.0%) for 449 yards this season with five touchdowns and two interceptions. Simpson has completed 6 of 10 attempts (60.0%) for 78 yards, while Buchner, who began his college career at Notre Dame before transferring, has completed 8 of 19 passes (42.1%) for 61 yards.
"We have a whole bunch of confidence in Jalen and whoever lines up and plays quarterback," junior tackle JC Latham said. "There is not one guy in particular we are showing favoritism to. Whoever is back there will have our full support."
Saturday's showdown (3:30 on CBS) will contain Ole Miss defensive coordinator Pete Golding, who spent the past four seasons coordinating Alabama's defense. Yet that storyline was hijacked on Sunday by Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin, who suggested that Alabama had switched defensive coordinators from Steele to Travaris Robinson.
Steele was Saban's first defensive coordinator in Tuscaloosa back in 2007, and he returned to that role in February, while Robinson is in his second season as cornerbacks coach. Robinson was South Carolina's defensive coordinator from 2016-19.
"We've been against Kevin a number of times," Kiffin told reporters Sunday. "I worked with him at Alabama (in 2014) and against him at Auburn and LSU. There seems like there's been a change there. I don't know what happened after the Texas game, but from our guys watching the TV copy and just schematically in this last game, it certainly seems like T-Rob's now calling the defense.
"We played him before at South Carolina, so we're preparing accordingly for him calling the defense. He's done a good job, too, and they've got really good players."
Saban addressed Kiffin's comments during Monday's news conference.
"Kevin Steele is the defensive coordinator," Saban said. "He has all the defensive coordinator responsibilities. The only thing we tried to improve on from an administrative standpoint was game day administration of getting the signals in quicker. That's the only thing we worked on together as a staff, and the whole staff made a contribution to it.
"It was a lot better in this last game than it was in the Texas game."
When Kiffin was asked in his news conference Monday about his Sunday remarks, he said, "I wasn't really trying to start this big thing. We saw things on the TV copy where things were different. We looked into that further, and it's no secret that people in these buildings know each other, so we obviously got some information that way, too. I'm not sure what transpired after Texas, but we're going to have our hands full no matter what."
Kiffin was Saban's offensive coordinator from 2014-16, when the Crimson Tide won three straight SEC championships and the 2015 national title. Kiffin would go on to Florida Atlantic and ultimately Ole Miss, where he has compiled a 26-13 record early in his fourth season.
The Rebels are also 14-11 in SEC play under Kiffin.
"I think they're outstanding," Saban said. "They're like fourth in the country in total offense and scoring 52 points a game. Lane is an offensive guy who did a great job when he was here, and he's doing a great job there.
"His players do a great job of executing, which is always a good sign of a well-coached team."
Alabama leads its series with Ole Miss 58-10-2, which includes a 28-2 mark in Tuscaloosa. ... Rebels quarterback Jaxson Dart is averaging 71.0 rushing yards per contest and 6.7 per carry. .... The Crimson Tide are averaging 457.2 yards per game against Ole Miss in their 16 meetings under Saban.
Contact David Paschall at [email protected].