With Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback, the University of Alabama’s offense is among the most explosive in the nation.
The Crimson Tide junior dazzles in the pocket, able to read defenses and deliver pinpoint accurate passes to receivers for big plays at any given time.
No one has ever thought of Tagovailoa as a game manager, which is exactly what previous Alabama quarterbacks have been under Nick Saban — Jake Coker, AJ McCarron, Greg McElroy, John Parker Wilson, and even Jalen Hurts to a certain degree.
Tagovailoa won’t be on the field Saturday when No. 5 Alabama faces in-state rival and No. 16 Auburn. The Crimson Tide turns to Mac Jones, a quarterback who is not flashy, but has a good arm and makes good decisions — a game manager.
Jones gets his third start of the season when the Crimson Tide faces the Tigers on Saturday in a hostile Jordan-Hare Stadium environment.
“This is going to be the first game he’s had to play on the road, so it’ll be different in that standpoint for him in terms of game management, things he has to do to be effective against a very good team,” Saban said.
Jones, who took control of the offense a few weeks ago when Tagovailoa sustained a season-ending injury against Mississippi State, has fared well in his other two starts. He threw for 235 yards in a win against Arkansas and a career-high 275 last week in a 66-3 rout of Western Carolina.
Overall he’s 55 of 77 for 841 yards with seven touchdowns. Of all those dropbacks, Jones has taken just one sack and has a 71.4 completion percentage.
“We have every confidence that he’ll be able to manage the game well and do what we need to do to get the ball to the skill players to create balance in the offense,” Saban said.
All eyes will be on Jones to see if he can break through an Auburn defense that allows just 16.2 points per game and has not allowed more than 24 points this season.
Jones will have to be a game manager and a leader.
You have to accept the responsibility of the role, you have to be comfortable in your ability in that role,” Saban said. “Your body language has to express that to the players that you’re playing with.
“When it doesn’t go the way you’d like for it to go, you have to focus on the next play, and that’s really important for the quarterback not to get frustrated about the circumstances and focus on the next play. His teammates need to see that and have confidence in his ability to do that as well.”
DeVonta Smith, who caught a touchdown pass from Jones last week against Western Carolina, said the Crimson Tide does have that confidence in Jones to be a leader Saturday.
“Mac, he understands what kind of game this is and understands what’s going on,” Smith said. “Just knowing that he knows the offense and is very confident keeps us confident. So we just follow him — whatever he gives us, we just go with it.”
Reach Edwin Stanton at 205-722-0226, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @edwinstantonu2