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Alabama football quarterback position starts with Mac Jones in 2020

Brett Hudson
The Tuscaloosa News

The last time the University of Alabama had a preseason quarterback battle, it was one that came with a seemingly predetermined conclusion. Given the events of the second half of the national championship game against Georgia, it was hard to fathom anyone other than Tua Tagovailoa being UA’s starting quarterback.

UA has a similar situation on its hands in 2020.

As it opened spring practice Monday, it may not have had last year’s true starting quarterback leading camp, but it did have Mac Jones, he of 10 touchdowns and two interceptions in three starts against Power 5 competition. The only thing challenging his right to the huddle is the addition of Bryce Young, a five-star prospect from California.

Players: Redshirt junior Mac Jones, redshirt freshman Paul Tyson, freshman Bryce Young.

2019 stat: UA was the only school in the nation last year to have two quarterbacks average more than 10 yards per attempt over at least 125 attempts. Tagovailoa averaged 11.3 yards per attempt over 252 attempts and Jones averaged 10.7 yards per attempt over 141 attempts.

Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (10) throws against Arkansas in Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

Storyline: For the next six weeks, as it had been for the previous six months, all eyes are on Young.

Under normal circumstances, a pedigree like Jones’ would not be questioned. In three starts against Power 5 competition, Jones completed 60 of his 86 passes (69.7 percent) for 897 yards, averaging 10.4 yards per attempt. (Only four qualified quarterbacks averaged over 10 yards per attempt for the entire 2019 season).

Yet — as is often the case in losses — the bad was more easily recalled than the good. Jones threw two costly interceptions in the Iron Bowl and failed to punch UA’s final possession into the end zone, resulting in a missed field goal. Jones also threw for 335 yards and four touchdowns in that game, in which UA’s defense allowed 5.32 yards per carry, its worst performance of the season.

Young also comes in as a standout even in the context of five-star prospects. In the 247 Sports all-time recruiting rankings, Young is tied for 20th among them all, in the elite company of fellow Crimson Tide players Cyrus Kouandjio and Andre Smith. That rating has placed him ahead of recent college football greats including Julio Jones, Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence and Ohio State’s Ted Ginn Jr.

Young may ultimately become the transcendent prospect he is projected to be, but being that prospect from the second one steps on campus is a tricky proposition, one that does not come to fruition all that frequently. In recent years, more five-star quarterbacks have transferred than those that started the first game of their freshman season.

The degree to which Jones and Young actually battle for the starting spot is unknown, and will likely stay that way with practices closed to media for health and safety reasons. If a battle ensues, it is one that has been brewing ever since Young made the flip from USC to Alabama during his senior season.

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson