There have been few interviews with the University of Alabama’s prospective quarterbacks for the 2019 season recently and while Tua Tagovailoa may or may not speak at the Manning Passing Academy this week, it appears that Jalen Hurts has already indicated that he will not be doing any interviews. Don’t count on hearing from either one at SEC Media Days, either. The odds of either one making the trip to Atlanta (it is still odd not to say ‘Hoover”) are lower than those of Jonah Williams switching over from tackle and winning the job.
The biggest reason is probably this quote from Nick Saban a few weeks ago, when he spoke following after his charity golf tournament, factors into it.
“I think that both players need to know that they need to win the team, that’s what they need to do,” Saban said. “And the best way for them to do that is stay focused on what they need to do, and I think anything that they do that brings attention to themselves probably erodes the opportunity for that to happen.”
I would not say that was an “edict” from Saban, but I would rank it as something more than a “powerful hint.”
In the past couple of weeks, though, there has been a development that would be intriguing to discuss with the quarterbacks, most especially Hurts. The game changed, perhaps slightly, perhaps dramatically, two weeks ago when the NCAA Division I Council passed a new redshirt rule, effective immediately, that will allow players to appear in as many as four games without losing a year of eligibility. There has been some talk about it in relation to Alabama, but no answer yet on how it might affect — or prolong — the quarterback decision that Saban insists is still being made.
Assuming — and hoping — that no injury scenarios come into play, things might work out something like this:
First, a redshirt year holds little value for Tagovailoa. We are almost two years and a million mock drafts away from the NFL’s 2020 Draft but most of the experts who project that far see Tagovailoa as a first-rounder. Even if Team Tua, he and his family, chose not to leave school after three years, he’d certainly be gone after four. (It also makes a transfer, never a likely option for Tua, superfluous.)
For Hurts, though, things are different. He certainly has personal goals. He should make his own choices. But for the moment, he is not regarded as a surefire NFL prospect. So how might the redshirt rule play out for him? Does it give him extra time — including, perhaps, the first couple of games of the 2018 season to compete, or, in Saban’s words, “to win the team?” Does it make staying at Alabama through the 2018 season more plausible?
Look at it this way: if the Hurts family felt like a transfer was the best option, which would be the best option? To leave before the season, sit out a year in residence (since he would not be a grad transfer) and then have two years to play two at a new destination beginning in 2019? Or to stay through the season, having played in four games, graduate in December (or May) and then have immediate eligibility — and two years to play — at another school, SEC (which no longer restricts grad transfers) or elsewhere?
The new rule won’t impact Saban’s decision (unless it gives him a couple of extra games to make one, or to announce it.) That decision will come down to which quarterback is best for the team. Maybe he already knows, but will not tell. Neither will Hurts, as long as he isn’t taking questions. So we will wait — maybe a little longer, maybe not — and see.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.