Lane Kiffin: If Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa hadn't played, he would have transferred

Tom Schad
Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa celebrated after Monday's win.

Florida Atlantic coach and former Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin said Tuesday morning that there is "no doubt" Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa would have transferred to another school if he hadn't played in Monday night's national title game.

"The funny thing is, if this second half doesn't flip like this and Alabama's (not) moving the ball, it doesn't change — people that really know what's going on would tell you that Tua was leaving," Kiffin said on The Dan Patrick Show. "Because Tua felt that he should've been the starting quarterback and had outperformed (Jalen Hurts) in practice, and coach (Nick Saban) never gave him an opportunity."

Tagovailoa, a true freshman from Hawaii, played sparingly during the regular season, appearing in seven of the team's 12 games. He entered Monday night's game against Georgia in the second half and led the Crimson Tide to a 26-23 come-from-behind victory, completing 14 of 24 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.

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Kiffin was at Alabama while the Crimson Tide was recruiting both Tagovailoa and Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm, who first committed to Alabama before flipping to the Bulldogs. The Owls coach revealed on The Dan Patrick Show that the staff was not crestfallen by Fromm's departure because it actually preferred Tagovailoa.

"Obviously, that was never released publicly, because you can't talk about recruits and you're not going to say that afterwards," said Kiffin, who also said Tagovailoa reminds him of Steve Young. "(We) knew this guy (Fromm) was going to be really, really special. But when you just watch Tua's talent, this was off-the-charts unique. Fromm is a great leader. Fromm is very talented. But Jake Fromm's not a first-round draft pick. ... Tua's got a higher ceiling." 

Now, Kiffin said, the question is what will happen with Jalen Hurts, the sophomore who was benched in favor of Tagovailoa on Monday. Saban told reporters in a press conference Tuesday morning that "we haven't really made a decision about" who will start at quarterback in the future.

"Now the story's going to flip the other way, and the story's going to be: Is Jalen going to leave?" said Kiffin, who led the Owls to an 11-3 record in his first season as head coach. "Now Jalen's such a great competitor, he may not. But most guys would."

Contact Tom Schad at or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

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