The Alabama quarterback debate is one of the hottest topics in college football. Will the defending national champions roll with last year’s starting quarterback Jalen Hurts, or title game hero Tua Tagovailoa start the 2018 season? It’s pretty obvious head coach Nick Saban is not interested in that question right now.
Speaking at SEC Media Days at the the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, the legendary coach of the Crimson Tide shut down the discussion of the starting job before reporters even had a chance to ask.
“And I think the number one thing that you will want to talk about is the quarterback controversy that you’d love to create, that you’ve already created, that you will continue to create, and I will tell you the same thing exists there,” Saban said. “It’s still to be determined as to who is going to play quarterback for Alabama.
“So you can ask all of the questions about it, but it’s still to be determined. Tua basically missed spring practice due to an injury. Jalen had a good spring. Both guys had great summers, and we’ll just have to see who wins the team in fall camp. So, we’ll see.”
Saban warned he would answer all of those questions in a similar way. But was that going to stop someone in the packed house to ask something about the competition? Absolutely not.
In fact, there were multiple questions from some brave reporters, and Saban fielded those inquiries in the way only he can.
How much will their past performances play into the competition? What did Tua gain in spring practices despite being injured?
“I think it all will be determined. Everything you just asked me will be determined by what the players do, the rest of the summer, how they win the team, what they do in fall camp. And I’m not making any predetermined decisions about that,” the veteran football coach explained. “So, they need to continue to compete, like every other person at every other position on our team is competing. And I love both guys.
“They’re both really good competitors. They are really good people. They are good leaders. They both make great contribution to our team. They are very well liked. So somebody’s got to win the team, and however these guys can help the team, I hope they are both committed to staying and doing that.”
Those quotes may not be too heavy, but the look on his face and tone of voice said it all.
That wasn’t the most pressing question, though.
The biggest bombshell came from CBS reporter Dennis Dodd, who brilliantly asked if Hurts would even be on the roster before Alabama’s season opener with Louisville on Sept. 1 in Orlando, Florida.
As you would expect, Saban deflected the notion aimed at the Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback competition.
Well, I have no idea,” he quipped. “I expect him to be there. I think it’s our job to give both players a very fair opportunity to have a chance to win the team at their position. I think that one of the two guys — obviously, both are capable.
“We’ll create a role for one or both of those guys on our team, and they’ll all have to make a decision based on what that outcome is as to what their future is, you know, at Alabama. We certainly would love for every player on our team to stay at the University of Alabama and graduate. Jalen has a great opportunity to do that in December. So, we are hopeful that he will stay there and be a graduate regardless of what his circumstance is as a player.
“But that’s not to minimize his chances of being a starter and making a great contribution to our team in some way, even if he isn’t a starter.”
Interesting. Could Alabama, the favorite to win the national title again, use both quarterbacks at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa this season?
Hurts, now a junior, started every game for the Crimson Tide in 2017, completing over 60 percent of his passes for 2,081 yards with 25 total touchdowns.
Tagovailoa, of course, is most known for entering the College Football Playoff national championship game against Georgia at halftime as a true freshman and completing 14 of 24 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns in the overtime win.
Only time will tell what will happen here, but Saban laid out the decision-making process for the starting quarterback and it will undoubtedly be dissected and debated in the weeks to come.