This is the fourth of a seven-part series looking ahead to the start of Alabama’s spring football practice. We continue with a breakdown of the quarterbacks.
It’s the most fascinating question in college football this offseason, although some fans will declare there is no question at all. Jalen or Tua? Prepare yourself for mind-numbing opinions for all angles on the subject even after Alabama coach Nick Saban said he plans for both quarterbacks. What we do know is that it will be one of those guys, either Jalen Hurts or Tua Tagovailoa, who will start. Fans will clamor for Tagovailoa, and rightfully so. Saban wants to give Hurts a fair shot too, which is also understandable.
Memorize this statistic because you’ll hear and read it over and over and over. Hurts is 25-2 as a starter. That’s impressive. You can’t downplay that, though some have tried. You also can’t downplay what Tagovailoa did in the second half of the College Football Playoff National Championship Game when he led Alabama back from a 13-point deficit to an overtime win. He jumpstarted an offense that had been stalled for six quarters (including the Auburn game and the first half of Georgia). He did so throwing the football. That is the chief critique of Hurts. Can he pass the ball well enough to keep defenses honest? If he can improve in that regard, he becomes all the more difficult to defend when you consider his running ability. Tagovailoa is clearly the better of the passers and he’s no slouch himself when it comes to running the football. Saban recently said he would be agreeable to playing both quarterbacks if the situation presented itself. The quarterback competition will not be sorted out, at least not publicly, this spring. No, it will continue into fall practice before Saban makes his decision. And who knows, he may not make it public until the first game against Louisville.
Alabama didn’t recruit a quarterback in its 2018 recruiting class, leaving redshirt freshman Mac Jones as the only other scholarship quarterback on the roster for the spring. Jones spent his first season on campus getting stronger in UA’s strength and conditioning program. He did not play in 2017.
The question will be asked and likely more than once, and Saban will not give an answer to a question that doesn’t yet need be answered. The fans have expressed their support and appreciation for Tagovailoa. But Saban isn’t the type to turn his back on Hurts. He will give the junior-to-be every opportunity to compete to keep his starting job. Spring won’t reveal much to the public until the A-Day spring game and even then the offense is watered down. Given his ability to throw the football, it’s going to be tough to keep Tagovailoa off the field, but Hurts isn’t afraid of competition.