Marcus Spears would choose Tua Tagovailoa over Jalen Hurts as his starting quarterback at Alabama with either an SEC or national championship at stake.
Recently, the SEC Network analyst spoke to SEC Country and was asked which player he would start in either a conference or national title game. He selected Tagovailoa because of the young quarterback’s ability to stretch the field with his arm.
“I would probably start Tua just because he gives you that second dimension of being able to throw the ball downfield,” Spears told SEC Country. “He has both things. And Jalen, right now, is more heavily one-sided with his legs as opposed to his arm.”
Spears and others saw Tagovailoa’s ability to place pressure on a defense during Alabama’s comeback victory against Georgia in the National Championship Game in January. Tagovailoa completed 14 of 24 passes for 166 yards with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception after replacing Hurts following halftime and helped to lift the Crimson Tide to their fifth national title under coach Nick Saban. Hurts completed 3 of 8 passes for 21 yards as the Bulldogs raced to a 13-0 first-half lead.
Hurts and Tagovailoa are at the center of a high-profile competition this spring. Saban has said it’s possible roles might be found for both players in the fall.
To Spears, both quarterbacks provide value. Even though he said he would start Tagovailoa in a high-stakes situation, Spears said Hurts’ strengths can’t be ignored.
“We’ve seen Jalen do enough to win a national championship, because if it wasn’t for [former Clemson quarterback] Deshaun Watson and the heroics at the end of the game in the national championship two years ago, he made the final play to get the ‘W’ from an offensive standpoint,” Spears said. “Obviously, the passing game became imperative against Georgia, and Tua was stronger suited for that.
“I don’t know how much of a stride Jalen can make in the passing game. I’m sure he’s working on it. I’m sure he’s trying to put his best foot forward, because quite frankly, that’s where he’s going to have to compete from. So I think a lot of it has to do with maturity of those guys, and a lot of it is about, ‘How well does Jalen do with the pressure of possibly having to implement a pass game?’ We’ll find out the answer to that pretty soon.”
There’s time for Saban and his offensive staff to take a long, calculated look at Alabama’s quarterback options before opening the season against Louisville on Sept. 1. But it should be clear that Tagovailoa offers greater versatility with his deep-passing ability. The Crimson Tide wouldn’t have beaten the Bulldogs in Atlanta if Saban had kept Hurts at quarterback.
Still, Hurts’ 26-2 record as the Crimson Tide’s starter is hard to overlook. This is a good problem for Alabama to have, but it’s a puzzle to solve nonetheless.