The last time we saw Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, it was 4th-and-Goal from the Clemson Tigers' 2-yard line. On a sweep left, eight defenders wearing white jerseys and orange pants swarmed the Heisman Trophy runner-up, dragged him to the ground, and all-but-sealed a College Football Playoff National Championship for Dabo Swinney and company.
Tagovailoa's record-setting season in Tuscaloosa was marred by two sub-par showings near the end of the year, and it left plenty of ammunition for every anti-Alabama critic ready to roll all over the Tide. You better believe they stopped at nothing to bring it up the entire offseason, too.
But what many conveniently forgot is how Tagovailoa sprained his knee in October against Missouri, re-injured it against Tennessee a few weeks later, and left games against LSU and Mississippi State while playing injured. A high ankle sprain during the fourth quarter of the SEC Championship Game against the Georgia Bulldogs forced Tagovailoa into ankle surgery, too.
Despite being banged up, the Alabama quarterback shattered Crimson Tide records for passing yards (3,966) and passing touchdowns (43), plus he finished fifth in the NCAA in completion percentage (69.0) and led college football in passing efficiency (199.4).
By Alabama head coach Nick Saban's standards, that's not even close to good enough. Saban issued a challenge to Tagovailoa at the SEC Spring Meetings, saying that his star quarterback needed "to challenge himself a little bit to get back" following a difficult finish in 2018.
According to Cecil Hurt of TideSports.com, Tagovailoa heard his coach's challenge and met it with flying colors.
Saban said that the Heisman Trophy candidate "dropped about 15 pounds" since spring football practices began and a rough showing at Alabama's A-Day followed. Saban added that Tagovailoa "looks like he is in very good shape" heading into summer workouts with training camp looming.
All that, I'm sure, is music to the ears of hungry Alabama Crimson Tide football fans ready to wash the sour taste of last year out of their mouths.
Alabama's historic offense of 2018 returns most of its key weapons, including Biletnikoff Award-winning wide receiver Jerry Jeudy on the outside, All-SEC lineman Alex Leatherwood back at right guard, and a host of elite talent surrounding the Crimson Tide's southpaw QB.
With one full season as a starting quarterback under his belt, and the understanding that the SEC is not a place where the weak survive for long, fans should expect a much more decisive, smart, healthy Tagovailoa in 2019. That, alone, is one hell of a scary thought.
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