In last January’s College Football National Championship game, Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts led his team on a go-ahead touchdown drive with under three minutes left.
Despite being a true freshman, Hurts had his team in position to win Alabama’s fifth title in eight years. But it wasn’t meant to be. Clemson scored the game-winning touchdown with seconds left.
It’s rare that a quarterback leads his team to a stone’s throw away from a championship, but that’s exactly what could happen.
Incoming true freshman Tua Tagovailoa was the top-rated dual-threat quarterback in the nation, and he looked like it in Alabama’s spring game. Tagovailoa dazzled with his mobility, arm strength, and touch.
Hurts was only a play or two away from leading his team to the ultimate victory, but throughout the season, he was sporadic at throwing the football.
Hurts was buttressed by a vintage Nick Saban running game. He also benefitted from a defense and special teams unit that was historically prolific at scoring; Bama scored 15 non-offensive touchdowns in 15 games. Just an absurd statistic.
If Hurts doesn’t improve as a passer, he could leave the door open for Tagovailoa. It doesn’t help Hurts’ prospects when his competitor comes in with so much hype and early production to match.
From an NBC Sports report:
“…there might be more of a controversy at the spot than first thought. Incumbent Jalen Hurts was very sharp on his downfield passes but his strong outing (301 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) was overshadowed by true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who simply stole the show down in Tuscaloosa.
The early enrollee signal-caller from Hawaii jumped onto the scene in the first half of the game and wound up completing 17 passes for 313 yards, three touchdowns and an interception while working with both the first- and second-team offenses. You couldnormally dismiss numbers put up against a team’s second-string defense, this is Alabama we’re talking about so you know it’s coming against numerous future All-SEC players.”
Recently laid-off ESPN football analyst Trent Dilfer added the following about Tagovailoa:
“The freshman that’s coming in there Tua Tagovailoa is an Aaron Rodgers-type prospect…There’s a very real chance that Tua will be the starting quarterback for some point next year at Alabama, and I know that’s a mind-blower to a lot of people.” Dilfer continued…What Tua will look like in practice next to Jalen hurts, and by the way Tua has the same type of physicality. He’s not as fast as Jalen, but he’s a physical runner. He is a unique prospect. He throws the ball with the combination of the quickness and compact delivery, and his accuracy and his arm strength, his ability to change speeds, his eyes, his feet. I mean this kid is special with a capital ‘s…’ I’d say he’s probably the most gifted passer I’ve seen at this age.”
Calling that high praise would be soft-peddling it.
Coaches don’t come more ruthless than Saban. If Hurts sputters, Saban could have a quick hook. And if Tagovailoa thrives, Hurts could have a difficult time reclaiming his spot.
Monitor this situation closely.