Jalen Hurts was a Freshman All-American and the SEC Offensive Player of the Year, helping lead Alabama to within seconds of a national championship as a true freshman. A largely lackluster postseason performance, however, particularly in the passing game, has led to grumbling from some fans for the four star early enrollee Tua Tagovailoa to unseat Hurts.
While an impressive debut at A-Day for Tagovailoa added to those calls, Nick Saban has explicitly said there’s no quarterback controversy. Tagovailoa did look great, though he had some struggles later in the game once the defense started blitzing more and when he went up against the first team defense. And, of course, take A-Day performances with a grain of salt because of the rules (“sacks” for instance) and play calling.
1st and 10: Tagovailoa is under center with 11 personnel. He sells the handoff to Najee Harris well; and both inside linebackers bite, as well as the safety who had come down pre-snap. Tagovailoa rolls back to his right; and Jerry Jeudy, who sold CB Aaron Robinson on an inside breaking route, is open on an out route. Tagovailoa hits Jeudy for the easy completion.
3rd and 7: Can Tagovailoa get it done on his first third and long? He’s in the shotgun with Harris on his left hip. T.J. Simmons is on the right, and Aaron Robinson is in press coverage on him. Pre-snap, Hootie Jones, who could’ve given Robinson safety help, cheats down; and Tagovailoa identifies it. He immediately turns Simmons’ way and effortlessly flicks it to him. Tagovailoa places it perfectly, and Robinson never gets his head turned around. Simmons, for his part, makes an excellent catch, and the White team is on the board.
1st and 10: Tagovailoa’s in shotgun with twins right and a lone receiver on the left this time. The far right receiver goes deep on a fly route while Xavian Marks, in the slot on the right, and Jeudy both run deep crossing routes. Levi Wallace pursues Jeudy a little too far and actually slips to the ground trying to stop himself and get back to catch Marks coming across. Tagovailoa sees this happening, though. Feeling the pressure, he maneuvers to his right while keeping his eyes downfield and throws a well-timed ball to the open field. The (relatively) diminutive Marks adjusts and makes the catch, picking up about 20 yards after the catch.
2nd and 7: Tagovailoa goes back under center. It’s another playaction, but he rolls to the left this time. He sees an open Marks downfield and takes the time to plant before throwing. Tagovailoa throws it high, partially because of a jumping Terrell Hall; but the pass is too high. Marks ends up just deflecting it during his leap. Fortunately for the White offense, the ball ricochets off Levi Wallace and right into the hands of Jeudy, who makes the catch and dashes into the endzone. Yes, it’s a 25 yard touchdown pass for Tagovailoa, but only by of the grace of the football gods. This should have been an incompletion for the lefty.
3rd and 3: Nothing fancy here. Tagovailoa’s in the gun, and the play is designed to be a quick pass just beyond the sticks. Simmons releases outside like he’s going deep but stops and spins around a yard past the first down marker. Tagovailoa throws it right when he’s supposed to do, and it’s right on the money. Simmons just drops. It ends up as an incompletion; but, just grading Tagovailoa, it’s a positive play.
1st and 10: This looks familiar. Tagovailoa fakes the handoff. He read the one-on-one coverage for Jerry Jeudy against Aaron Robinson and went that way again. He places it where only Jeudy can get it, and Jeudy does.
1st and 10: A good play is followed up by a great play. The offense hurries up down the field, and Tagovailoa gets them set quickly. It’s the same exact formation as before. Trips left, Harris to his left, and Jeudy alone on the right. Tagovailoa again fakes the handoff to Harris. Again, freshman safety Xavier McKinney gets caught creeping up on the play fake, leaving Robinson one-on-one against Jeudy. On this play, Jeudy releases inside, however. Robinson, in his defense, does a nice job of sticking with Jeudy and is in solid position. Tagovailoa trusts his receiver to win and throws a beautiful ball. Jeudy rewards Tagovailoa’s faith by snagging the jump ball over Robinson and maintains his balance coming down. Hootie Jones isn’t close enough to make the tackle before Jeudy gets his second touchdown of the day.
3rd and 16: Tagovailoa is running with the first team now. The pocket collapses on him, and he does a good job of avoiding the traffic, stepping up and keeping his eyes downfield. Tagovailoa tries to force a pass to fellow freshman Chadarius Townsend, but it falls incomplete. It was a close call with safety Keaton Anderson almost getting over in time.
1st and 10: Tagovailoa is back with the second team. He’s in the shotgun and corrals a high snap from Chris Owens. He gets almost immediate pressure from Terrell Hall, who easily beat Alex Leatherwood at right tackle. Tagovailoa steps up and quickly launches a deep ball to Jerry Jeudy into double coverage, overthrowing his receiver and both defensive backs. Technically, Hall got the “sack” on Tagovailoa, but they let pass count.
3rd and 9: Tagovailoa’s in shotgun again on this third and long. Jamey Mosley beats Leatherwood outside, and Josh Frazier wins inside against Chris Owens and left guard Brandon Kennedy. Tagovailoa nimbly dodges around both defenders, navigating what little space he has. He steps up and tries to dump it off to Xavian Marks on a shallow crossing route; but, with the pressure, his throw is behind Marks. 4th down.
2nd and 2: Tagovailoa hit a wide open Jeudy for an easy first down on the previous play, and he hurriedly gets the offense set up. He looks right before moving to his next read on the left. That’s also covered, so he moves on again. Tagovailoa is going through reads while also moving around the pressure Josh Frazier is providing. He smartly dumps it off to Najee Harris and hits his mark this time.