TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — When it comes to the starting quarterback position at the University of Alabama, everyone has an opinion. From rival coaches to former Crimson Tide players, they’re all beginning to chime in.
Steve Spurrier does. He thinks both Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa will play “a lot” for the Crimson Tide this season.
Tommy Tuberville says “Jalen Hurts has got to be the starting quarterback right now.”
Vinnie Sunseri, a safety for the Crimson Tide from 2011-13, recently tweeted that there’s “No QB battle at Alabama in my eyes!” because he thinks the job should go to Tua Tagovailoa.
This is just the beginning, of course, but none of it can be sitting well with Nick Saban, the only person whose opinion truly matters.
Regardless of where you stand on Jalen vs. Tua, one has to admit that the coach is in a pretty tough spot.
Position battles happen all the time at Alabama. They’re going on all over the field this spring as Alabama continues to work toward A-Day next week. Even when Mark Ingram Jr. won the program’s first Heisman Trophy in 2009, there were some who thought Trent Richardson should have been the starting running back the following season.
But quarterbacks are obviously a little different due to the high-profile nature of their position.
Hurts has experience on his side and is 26-2 as a starter, despite having two different offensive coordinators (and now a third). He ranked third in the SEC in total offensive yards (2,936) and was 20thin the nation in passing efficiency with a 150.7 rating last season. It won’t matter in the decision, but he was the 2016 SEC Offensive Player of the Year as a freshman.
Tagovailoa was named the offensive MVP of the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. He completed only 3 percent more of his passes than Hurts, but his passer efficiency rating of 204.0 topped the conference and would have led the nation if he had had enough attempts.
One got Alabama to the national championship. The other won it.
They’re also basically the same age. Despite having another year of eligibility, Tagovailoa just turned 20. Hurts will in August.
Alabama’s QB Tua Tagovailoa led his Crimson tide to a National Championship at the age of 18…im 19 and still have trouble navigating around my neighborhood
— Scavenger 🥇 (@Thanks_Givens_) February 23, 2018
The high-profile position battle was put on hold when Tagovailoa sustained a hand fracture on the first day of spring practice, but there was little chance Saban was going to name a starter before the start of the season.
History alone tells us that. He didn’t when AJ McCarron eventually edged out Phillip Sims (a consensus 5-star prospect), or two years ago when Blake Barnett started the season opener against Southern Cal in 2016.
The underlying concern is always that once someone wins the job, the other quarterbacks will transfer. Sims did, and then so did Barnett, Cooper Bateman and David Cornwell, with Alec Morris having departed the previous year. It’s why Alabama went into last season with a sophomore starting quarterback and two freshmen on the depth chart, a situation that was anything but desirable.
Yet Saban actually has a bigger potential problem he’s trying to avoid: the competition splitting the locker room. It’s in part why he always talks about someone winning over the team.
“We have confidence in both guys,” tight end Irv Smith said. “Both of them are great players and we have a while until the first game.
“Nobody is really distracted with that.”
However, it’s already splitting the fan base.
When it comes to up-and-coming talent, Alabama football fans are notorious for not being patient. It can be about as rare as finding a 5-star left-handed quarterback in Hawaii.
Remember the clamor for Derrick Henry? Alabama used the freshman in the 2013 season opener against West Virginia, and he had a deer-in-the-highlights look about him. It wasn’t until going through bowl practices that things began to click; he still had to go through the learning experience of the 2014 season before winning the Heisman Trophy a year later.
There’s a lot more responsibility on a quarterback’s shoulders than those of a running back.
It’s fine and natural to root for one to win the job. Unfortunately, some have taken it to the next step and started rooting against the other.
Try asking Crimson Tide fand which they’d rather have: a quarterback who throws an impressive pass or one who wins games, and you might be surprised how many will say the former or hesitate with their answer.
Tired of people not appreciating the fact that if this man led us to the National Championship. And for all the fans that are against Jalen, you against me too. You either WITH US or AGAINST US. Love you 2 🐐#BigBroLittleBro @JalenHurts pic.twitter.com/ExjHAB7yHh
— Tua. T 🇦🇸 (@Tuaamann_) January 11, 2018
Ideally, you want to have one or more who does both. That’s what these quarterbacks are striving for, as is redshirt freshman Mac Jones.
“Hey, we have one mission and one goal, and we’re a team,” senior offensive lineman Joshua Casher said.
It’s the company line, but it’s also true. Fans need to let this play out and have a little faith in the coaching staff that’s headed by the man who has won six national championships.
Why does Alabama win so many titles? It’s because it has so many people all working together to achieve that goal.
If Hurts and Tagovailoa both effectively contribute, this really could be a season to remember.
But if one wins out and it splits the locker room, it could quickly turn into one to forget.
"Jalen Hurts displayed amazing poise and leadership." – President Donald Trump pic.twitter.com/ChPYl8Xaf0
— Ryan C. Fowler (@RyanCFowler) April 11, 2018