The stat book alone doesn’t portray Alabama quarterback Mac Jones in the brightest of lights, unless someone reads the fine print.
In 2018, Jones played in 14 of the Crimson Tide’s 15 games. Five of those appearances, though, were solely as the holder. In his opportunities under center, Jones threw 13 passes. He completed five for a total of 123 yards and a score – a long 94-yarder pads the number but goes down as the second-longest passing touchdown in program history.
Even finer print: Jones was limited offensively because he worked in a backup role to not just one but two other quarterbacks last year. There was Tua Tagovailoa, the starter who is back for 2019, and Jalen Hurts, the starter from 2017 who transferred to Oklahoma this offseason.
“Tua is obviously the starter,” UA coach Nick Saban said Saturday after the Crimson Tide’s first spring scrimmage. “Mac is the guy that has the most experience and got some playing time last year and has made a lot of progress. He’s the guy that can execute best right now as the next-best player.”
Jones has been a part of the program just as long as Tagovailoa. They both joined the Crimson Tide in 2017. Jones was a four-star recruit. Tagovailoa had five stars.
As the story goes, Tagovailoa entered that season’s national championship game in the second half and brought Alabama back from behind to defeat Georgia in overtime. Jones redshirted.
Tagovailoa has been the Crimson Tide’s first-string quarterback ever since, including in last weekend’s scrimmage in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
“You know, Mac Jones got the opportunity to go with the ones as well,” Tagovailoa said. “I think Mac is on pace to do really good for us and be a really good backup for us as well.”
He says that even with his younger brother, Taulia Tagovailoa, on the team.
Taulia spent time with the twos in the scrimmage. Apparently so did Paul Tyson, the great-grandson of former legendary Alabama coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant. The two early enrollees were four-star prospects just months ago.
“We need to kind of see who’s going to be the next-best guy and if anybody can challenge the first two guys,” Saban said. “That’s kind of where we are today, and that’s how we planned it. I think those guys have a ways to go.”
At the very start of spring, Saban did say Jones has stepped up as a leader and taken notice of how he affects teammates. Jones can help Tua Tagovailoa run the Crimson Tide, or at least the other quarterbacks.
Tua Tagovailoa sure believes in Jones, too.
“I think the biggest word I could describe Mac Jones up to this point is confidence,” Tagovailoa said. “He’s very confident in what he does now. He understands the playback almost inside-out. He understands where people need to line up. So when you know that, you can go out there and you can just play fast. And Mac’s been playing really fast, and he’s been playing really good as well.”
Reach Terrin Waack at email@example.com or at 205-722-0229.