Mac Jones — known to his teammates as Joker — is, as the nickname suggests, a class clown of sorts in the locker room. He also has a, “high-pitched cackle,” that reminds tight end Miller Forristall of the Batman villain for which Jones’ nickname is inspired.
Jones is also a confident player and, according to teammates, a serious talent. The public has a chance to see that in earnest on Saturday.
With Tua Tagovailoa out for the week after ankle surgery, Jones will get the first start of his career Saturday against Arkansas. The hope is for Tagovailoa to be back in time for the showdown with LSU, but Jones’ time could be coming soon: he is a redshirt sophomore, giving him two years left and the current lead on the starting job if Tagovailoa chooses to enter the 2020 NFL Draft. That race will play out in due time, but for now, Jones has already shown UA enough to have confidence in him going into a SEC game.
“I think with Mac it’s not a matter of arm talent or ability, it’s staying focused and being able to execute on a consistent basis and make good choices and decisions and not think about it too much and just take what the defense gives,” UA coach Nick Saban said. “When he’s done that he’s been very, very effective and that’s what we’ve worked with him on throughout the season, and for the most part he’s done a pretty good job of that.”
In Jones’ time as the backup, he has won the affection of his teammates. The Crimson Tide had fun with Slade Bolden’s incredulous celebration of his touchdown pass against Tennessee, but Forristall says that’s the kind of thing Jones would do in practice.
“He’s always pretty goofy and lighthearted and plays with a lot of emotion, so he’s a lot of fun to play with,” Forristall said.
Wide receiver Henry Ruggs III added, “He likes to joke, he likes to play around. He’s a great-hearted guy, he has a good spirit. We have a good time with him.”
He’s also proven to his teammates to be a worthy successor to Tagovailoa, even if only for one game.
“I think a lot of people underestimate Mac Jones. I don’t think they know how good he’s gonna be or how good he is. That’s something where it’s always been that, ‘What’s going to happen after Tua?’ Mac Jones is really good.
“Told him down there we’ve done well historically with backup quarterbacks. I’ve got as much faith in Mac as I’ve got in any quarterback here. He’s sat here and practiced against our defense for three years. MVP of the spring game. He can throw the crap out of the ball. It’s not like our playbook gets limited or we stop attacking down the field. We got to roll just the same as we always do.”
That preexisting confidence kept his teammates from wavering in an uninspiring 6-for-11 for 72 yards from Jones in finishing the Tennessee game. Forristall in particular believes in the power of a full week of preparation knowing the role you’ll play, and he anticipates that luxury bringing out the best of Jones.
“I’d expect to see him come out guns blazing.”
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson