TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama coach Nick Saban said there’s no structural damage to quarterback Bryce Young‘s right throwing shoulder and that he threw some in practice Wednesday, but Saban said a final decision on Young’s playing status for Saturday’s game against Texas A&M might not come until pregame warmups.
“Bryce has been practicing, and all week, he’s been saying that he could play,” Saban told ESPN on Thursday. “But that’s going to be a medical decision. We’ve still got some time, and I want to talk more to Bryce. He’s the only one who knows how he feels because it’s going to be a pain-tolerance thing.
“He’s a tough kid and great competitor. We’ll see where he is on game day.”
Saban said the plan from Alabama’s medical staff was for Young not to throw on Thursday and instead rest his shoulder.
“There was no reason for him to throw a lot this week, because if he does, it’s not going to get better. It’s just going to aggravate it,” Saban said. “Our doctors are saying that if you hold off as much as you can, then that’s the best chance that he’s got.”
Young, the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner, left the 49-26 victory over Arkansas last week in the second quarter after scrambling toward the sideline and landing awkwardly on his shoulder when he was tackled. Young returned to the field for the next series. But after throwing an incompletion on third down, he could be seen grimacing as he walked off the field with his right arm to his side. After a visit to the injury tent on the sideline, Young was taken to the locker room. He returned to the Alabama sideline in the third quarter wearing pads, but he didn’t return to the game.
“There’s nothing wrong with his rotator cuff or anything like that, nothing that’s going to keep him out long term,” Saban said. “We hope we get him back this week, but it’s still too early to make that call.”
Redshirt freshman Jalen Milroe finished the Arkansas game at quarterback for the Crimson Tide. He passed for 65 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown. His 77-yard run to the 3-yard line with 14:30 to play set up Jase McClellan’s short touchdown run to give Alabama some breathing room after Arkansas had scored 23 unanswered points to cut the lead to 28-23.
Milroe and Young have both taken reps in practice this week. The difference, according to Saban, is that Young has been limited throwing the ball.
“Bryce has done everything else, gotten all the reads, done the team runs,” Saban said. “We just haven’t allowed him to throw it very much.”
If Young is unable to play and Milroe steps in as the starter, Saban doesn’t see the team dynamic changing much.
“Obviously, Bryce is the leader of the team, and the players respect him and trust him and believe in him,” Saban said. “But I don’t see our players not performing well when [Milroe] is in there. He does enough good things that they believe in him and trust him. If he’s in there, I don’t see it as a problem. Whether we can execute well enough is what matters because these guys [Texas A&M] are better on defense, I think, than anybody we’ve played so far.”
Young has passed for 1,202 yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions this season. He also has three rushing touchdowns. Young is 18-2 as Alabama’s starting quarterback. One of the games he lost was to Texas A&M last season when the Aggies won 41-38 in College Station.
Saban said he hasn’t addressed the players about the offseason spat between him and Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher, who was furious after Saban said at a speaking engagement in May that Texas A&M “bought” the players in their No. 1-ranked 2022 signing class under the guise of NIL rules. Fisher fired back and called Saban a “narcissist” and suggested that everyone go “dig into how God did his deal,” referring to Saban’s recruiting practices.
“This game isn’t about any of that, and our players don’t give a s— about it,” Saban said. “This game is about the goals we want to accomplish as a team and our players creating value for themselves. That’s why this game is important, not because of anything that was said about anybody.”