QB Bryce Young's shoulder soreness not 'nearly as bad,' coach Nick Saban says

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- No. 3 Alabama coach Nick Saban told ESPN on Friday that quarterback Bryce Young is on track to play Saturday at No. 6 Tennessee, but that the final decision will be made during pregame warm-ups.

"He's done a lot more in practice this week and thrown a lot more than he did a week ago," Saban said. "He wants to play and feels like he's healthy enough to play. We'll know for sure once he gets on the field, starts throwing and how he feels then."

Young is expected to start against Tennessee on Saturday, sources told ESPN's Pete Thamel. He remains a game-time decision, but there's cautious optimism that his injured shoulder will be ready.

Young, the Heisman Trophy winner a year ago, missed Alabama's 24-20 win last week over Texas A&M after spraining his right throwing shoulder a week earlier against Arkansas.

Saban said last week that Young was a game-time decision, but Alabama decided prior to the game that he wasn't ready and instead played redshirt freshman Jalen Milroe, who threw three touchdown passes but also had three turnovers.

Young threw in the tunnel at Bryant-Denny Stadium a week ago before coming out onto the field for warm-ups. He stood and watched the other quarterbacks during the throwing part of warm-ups.

Saban said on Friday that he felt much better about Young's chances of playing than he did at this time a week ago.

The plan is for Young to go through full pregame warm-ups on Saturday at Neyland Stadium. Young did not throw on Thursday, but that was by design to have him rested for game day.

"There's no reason to rush a quarterback back with this kind of injury," Saban said. "Bryce is such a competitor that he always wants to play. The soreness he had last week hasn't been nearly as bad. You can see that when he throws it. But we still need to make sure everything checks out before the game."

The Crimson Tide and Vols meet on Saturday for the first time as unbeaten teams since 1989.

Young has passed for 1,202 yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions this season. He's also rushed for three touchdowns. Young is 18-2 as Alabama's starter.

Saturday's game should be one of the better quarterback matchups of the season in college football. Tennessee's Hendon Hooker has passed for 1,432 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. He's also rushed for three touchdowns.