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Hurts, Tagovailoa should both stay – and here’s why
Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa should stay put at Alabama and not bail Nick Saban out from having to make really tough coaching decisions this season.
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TUSCALOOSA – Sure Nick Saban would’ve wanted to come out of spring ball with a clearer picture on the quarterback position going into August camp.
Tua Tagovailoa’s hand injury complicated matters, but it also created a situation in which Jalen Hurts will likely stay and be the starter while the national championship game hero is out until August.
Had Tagovailoa stayed healthy, maybe he wins the job and Hurts transfers. The latter is clearly an option as Hurts’ dad told Bleacher Report his son would be “the biggest free agent in college football history” when asked if Hurts doesn’t win the job.
This is just the latest drama that will only continue, but Hurts and Tagovailoa should stay — for now.
Don’t want one to win the job because the other transferred and bail Saban out from having to make some of the toughest decisions of his coaching career.
Hurts will have his struggles as he’s had in the past and as he did in Saturday’s A-Day game before 74,732 fans at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
First pass? Rolled right. Incomplete. Something he’s known to do.
Second pass? Linebacker Lyndell “Mack” Wilson nearly intercepted it.
Then Hurts looked to go downfield on his second series, but got sacked. On his third series, he threw into coverage, Trevon Diggs picked it off, but the turnover was negated by a sack.
Hurts didn’t look like someone who Saban says has made strides in the passing game. He finished 19-of-37 for 195 yards and an interception on his final pass that Diggs corralled, but then again, Alabama has studs on defense.
The Tide first-team front had more than its share of dominating moments Saturday (sacked Hurts seven times), but Hurts wasn’t facing Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ronnie Harrison, Levi Wallace, Anthony Averett and Tony Brown in the secondary, either.
Those guys are NFL bound. Overall, Hurts should’ve played better.
Meanwhile Mac Jones hit four of his first five passes, be it against the second team, and later threw a 65-yard touchdown. He finished 23-of-35 for 289 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in leading Crimson over White, 24-12.
Don’t get it twisted, though.
Hurts is the better man, with dual-threat ability. Can’t really display the run part in a spring game, but we know Hurts can do that.
He’ll have bad passing moments this season as all quarterbacks do. The difference is fans will really react now because they saw Tagovailoa pull the Tide out of a 13-0 halftime hole to win a national title.
Will Saban react and put in Tua? Outside noise won’t influence him, right?
After all, Saban’s 12th on Forbes list of the top 50 world’s greatest leaders and the highest paid coach in college football.
He’s got this.
Coaches usually want to play one guy, but would Saban have the guts to play both all season and risk dividing the team and losing games? He did it at LSU and would thoroughly enjoy winning a seventh national title to pass Bear Bryant with two QBs — and rub it in our faces.
Tagovailoa’s injury to his throwing hand has helped make this an easier call to start fall with Hurts. Saban can tell Tagovailoa that Hurts got more reps this spring, but he’ll have a chance to win the job in the fall.
Then Saban can turn around and tell Hurts he’s always believed in him. We made a change in Atlanta, but you’ve been our starter and we’re moving forward with you as our guy.
Most coaches who watched their backup win the national title game in comeback fashion by throwing three touchdowns would make him the starter even if he broke a bone his hand in spring ball.
Then there’s Saban, who can respond by just pointing at his six national titles with five at Alabama and quiet most of those who want Tagovailoa to start.
Saban isn’t delusional, though. He knows Tagovailoa has “it” factors to become a great quarterback.
Tagovailoa makes Alabama a more dynamic offense that takes full advantage of the talent at wide receiver and encourages Elite 11 quarterbacks to come here to spin it.
Simply put, Tagovailoa is a better talent than Hurts.
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Saban knows it. The fans know it, but Hurts should go into and emerge from preseason camp as the starter.
Yes, he came up small in the last two playoffs title games against Clemson and Georgia. He’s 26-2 as a starter, but isn’t being credited for winning a national title.
Tagovailoa is — and he should be.
See, Alabama plays for national championships. The Tide expect to win. Period.
So Hurts is judged more by how he played in the playoff title games and for losing at rival Auburn than his clutch play at Mississippi State and against LSU.
Hurts is proven. Tagovailoa hasn’t had to do it week in and week out.
Still, Saban benched Hurts at halftime down 13-0 to the SEC champion Bulldogs and Tagovailoa lead that epic 26-23 overtime win.
Tagovailoa responded to being sacked to find fellow true freshman DeVonta Smith on the next play for the winner and send Saban into a state of unprecedented euphoria.
“I’ve never been happier in my life,” said Saban after the game. “Never.”
So how could Saban not start the guy who made him feel that good?
Saban isn’t a prisoner of the moment. He’s moved on and preparing for the upcoming season, but if Saban had to pick a starter today, it’d probably be Hurts.
That’s how it should go down.
Let Hurts take that first snap against Louisville in Orlando, Florida, and show he’s made improvements as a passer. The Cardinals have dissected film and will try to force Alabama to beat them with Hurts’ arm.
Since Alabama has better talent, it won’t matter, but teams should make Hurts show and prove through the air. If he can, Hurts should remain the starter.
If he can’t, turn it over to Tua.
Let this play out so we can see how Saban handles the biggest storylines in college football.
Who doesn’t want to see that?
I certainly do.
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