Let’s talk Alabama quarterbacks.
Oh, I see you have already started this conversation without me. Like right after Tua Tagovailoa threw that touchdown pass in overtime to beat Georgia for the national championship.
It was at that moment Tagovailoa was deemed Alabama’s starting quarterback for the 2018 season by just about everyone who watched the game, which is to say approximately 98 percent of the citizens of this state (some people couldn’t get off work or it would have been a solid 100 percent).
And that may be the case.
But when discussing the most talked-about position in college football, especially when the team being discussed is Alabama, there’s always going to be a lot of opinions, a lot of talk. It’s the nature of the beast. Still, this offseason and certainly throughout spring practice, it has been the dominant topic of discussion.
Again, business as usual.
It brings to mind an old saying in football, that that the best position in football is being the back-up quarterback, which garners respect and expectations and often stat-padding late in games against an opponent’s second- or third-team defense in a game that was decided well before the back-up got the call.
That wasn’t the case for Tagovailoa. Staretr Jalen Hurts struggled to get the Alabama offense going in the first half and head coach Nick Saban and his offensive staff made the bold decision to go with Tagovailoa to start the second half in an effort to jump-start the offense. The plan, in the biggest game of the year, worked and Tagovailoa became an overnight sensation for his play in little more than two quarters.
He gave the Alabama offense what it needed at that moment, and in so doing, Alabama collected the College Football Playoff national championship trophy. Again.
Tagovailoa jump-started the Alabama offense and in so-doing he revved up the conversation as to who should be the starter this season.
In a clear case of what have you done for me lately?, Alabama fans had Hurts — who started for the Crimson Tide as a true freshman when he was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year and who has a 26-2 record as a starter — heading toward the transfer line.
That may indeed be the case. Hurts’ father, Averion Hurts, suggested as much last week when noting if his son isn’t named the starter this season he will likely transfer. And many Alabama fans have said, out loud, they’re good with that plan. Let him go. We’ve got Tua.
But Tagovailoa’s injured hand should provide the best argument that Alabama fans should hope Hurts will stay, whether he’s the starter or the backup. He has proven himself on the field. OK, so he doesn’t own as gifted a downfield passing game as Tagovailoa; that much is true. The TD pass that gave Alabama the national crown demonstrates Tagovailoa has that gift. But Hurts has plenty of experience, and victories, on his side of the ledger. Yes, he struggled in the first half against Georgia, but one can also point to several times when his calm nature and his talent directed Alabama to big plays and big wins.
Who would want to lose that kind of asset?
And then came the A Day spring game last weekend and, with Tagovailoa not participating after re-injuring his hand, redshirt freshman Mac Jones gets added playing time, throws for 289 yards on 23 of 35 passing and the Hurts is gone talk intensifies. Those discussions were aided by the comments of Hurts’ father and the fact Tagovailoa’s brother, highly regarded recruit Taulia Tagovailoa, announced his verbal commitment to sign with Alabama in 2019.
There seems one certainty in all of this: Alabama is going to be OK at the quarterback position for a while. There will be other highly touted quarterbacks signed — Bear Bryant’s great-grandson, Paul Tyson, has announced he will sign with the Tide too. Heck, the position has usually been a plus over the years. That isn’t likely to change.
This year it’s Hurts, Tagovailoa and Jones, in no particular order, depending on any decision Hurts may make prior to the start of the season. And you can bet Saban will drag out the competition and the naming of a starter until late in fall practice.
And consider this: Jones may be the next Alabama quarterback with a decision to make. When he looks over his shoulder and sees Tua’s brother on the way along with Bear Bryant’s great-grandson, he may also decide his future would be brighter elsewhere. Or heck, he may swoop in and take the starting job this year.
That leads to another certainty: this subject is going to continue to be talked about, dissected and analyzed intensely right up until the starter for the upcoming season is named. And then it will be discussed, dissected and analyzed some more.
Tommy Hicks, a Phenix City native, has covered sports in Alabama for more than 40 years. Contact him at