Nick Saban finally just came out and said it.
Like in Saturday’s Week 1 win over Louisville, Tua Tagovailoa will start at quarterback for Alabama’s Week 2 game against Arkansas State. Jalen Hurts will play, too.
Monday marked the first time Saban verbalized the pecking order on the depth chart since he benched Hurts for Tagovailoa at halftime of the College Football Playoff title game, and Tagovailoa led the Crimson Tide to a comeback victory.
“Everybody knows that Tua is going to start this game and we’re going to use Jalen’s skill set in the future to help however we feel he can benefit the team,” Saban said less than two days after snapping at ESPN’s Maria Taylor for asking about the QBs.
Tagovailoa outperformed Hurts vs. Louisville
Tagovailoa was in at quarterback for Alabama’s first five offensive series on Saturday. He looked great. He threw a touchdown pass to Jerry Jeudy on the first drive, had a nine-yard rushing touchdown on the third drive, and set up the third touchdown, a one-yard Najee Harris run, with a 49-yard completion to Jaylen Waddle.
Hurts was inserted for the next two possessions, and both ended in punts. Tagovailoa got one more series — one that started at the UL 25 thanks to a nice punt return by Waddle — before halftime and threw another TD pass to Jeudy with nine seconds left.
Tagovailoa led one more touchdown drive in the third quarter before Hurts went the rest of the way.
The final stats in the 51-14 win looked like this: Tagovailoa: 12-of-16 for 227 yards and two touchdowns; Hurts: 5-of-9 for 70 yards.
On Monday, Saban said his approach with Tagovailoa and Hurts — from not saying who will start to playing both in the opener — falls in line with what he’s done in the past.
“I just want to be clear with everyone that I have done this in the past where we don’t say who the starter’s going to be for the first game and we give both quarterbacks an opportunity to play in the game. That’s exactly what we did (against Louisville). Not a whole lot different from what we’ve done in the past,” Saban said.
“Now we know, and you know.”
What does this mean for Jalen Hurts moving forward?
With the order of things established, it’s unclear how Hurts will respond. He is on track to graduate from Alabama in December. At that point, he could pursue a graduate transfer and be immediately eligible, with one year remaining, at his next school. But if he plays in four games or less this year, he could preserve a year of eligibility using the NCAA’s new redshirt rule.
Saban said Monday he hasn’t considered the possibility of Hurts wanting to benefit from the redshirt rule. It’s all about this year’s team and whatever needs to be done to win another national title.
“I don’t know how you can prepare when you pick and choose when you play players,” he said per ESPN. “I don’t know how a player really can pick or choose when he wants to play and have any respect for his teammates.”
As it relates to ultimately going with Tagovailoa over a player as accomplished as Hurts, it all goes back to winning.
“We’re going to make all of our decisions here based on winning. Whoever we feel gives us the best opportunity to go out there and win, that’s who we’re going to play,” Saban said. “It’s how you practice, it’s how you prepare. In our opinion, the one player did a little better job of that, so he got the opportunity to start.”
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