Nick Saban said Saturday that Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had “a little setback” related to an earlier injury on his throwing hand.
That’s simple enough, right?
Except that when it comes to Alabama quarterbacks in general and Tagovailoa in particular, nothing is going to be treated as “little.” Every ramification has to be debated. Every possible outcome has to be considered. If the latest hand issue keeps Tagovailoa out for the rest of the spring, that’s a whole summer’s worth of debate about how it “affected” the quarterback “battle.”
Saban says there is no battle, no scorecard, no daily judging in which Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts are evaluated and then a “winner” is declared using the 10-point must system. There is ultimately only one vote — Saban’s — and since he also gets to decide when it’s Election Day, we will just wait and see.
The first consideration should be Tagovailoa’s health. “Getting him back out there” is far less relevant than “getting him well,” as it should be for every player, whether starter or fourth-teamer.
There is no indication, based on what Saban has said, that Tagovailoa will be affected by the setback in the fall. There is certainly a chance the sophomore will get his first career start against Louisville. If not, Alabama does have the luxury of an experienced two-year starter in Hurts, which is a positive thing. Most people recognize that.
Will the amount of time Tagovailoa has missed in the spring enter into Saban’s decision? It’s possible but it also may not be a factor at all.
If Hurts and Mac Jones are the only quarterbacks to play a significant number of snaps in next Saturday’s A-Day Game, that might disappoint those in attendance but there’s never been any indication someone wins or loses the job at A-Day.
With a week to go, there doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of steam for A-Day. That seems to have been true at most SEC schools. The quarterback that got the most attention in Saturday’s round of games around the SEC wasn’t Drew Lock at Missouri or Feleipe Franks at Florida. It was Johnny Manziel, doing the nostalgia thing on the sideline at Texas A&M. Even if Tagovailoa plays in some limited capacity in Alabama’s game, he was never going to come out and do an encore of his second-half performance against Georgia.
In fact, the biggest question for Alabama at A-Day, as it has been all spring, will be the defense. If the game is a straight split 11-on-11 contest as it has been in the past, there will be a challenge in coming up with 10 defensive backs of the expected caliber. Saban gave a strong hint about secondary depth last week, when DeVonta Smith (that other hero of the Georgia overtime) stayed on defense even though Tyrell Shavers joined Jerry Jeudy on the “out for spring” list.
Defense doesn’t sell tickets, though, not even free ones at A-Day. Quarterbacks do, and a “quarterback battle” does even more. We probably won’t hear anything official on whether Tagovailoa will play or simply wear an inflated mitten and wave until Thursday, when Saban holds his next press conference.
The best case scenario is if it stays as “a little setback.” Anything more and there may be as much consternation as confidence over the summer.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.