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Saban opens up about QB competition, warns both candidates against self-promotion

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The coach offered some insight to ESPN’s Sage Steele on Tuesday.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN staff writer Chris Low reports that Nick Saban spoke with colleague Sage Steele on Tuesday, with much of the dialogue centered around the ongoing QB battle between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. Of note:

“I’ve told both players, ‘You’ve gotta win the team, and everything you do to bring attention to yourself, or anybody even in your family that brings attention to yourself, you’re not doing yourself a service in trying to win the team,’” Saban told ESPN on Tuesday.

It’s tough not to read between the lines on the family bit, after Averion Hurts made what seemed to be some ill-timed comments about his son’s potential free agency back in the spring. In any event, Saban is sending a clear message to both players that nonsense isn’t going to be tolerated, as unlikely as it would seem from these two young men to begin with. For what it’s worth, it sounds like Jalen is all in for this season.

“Jalen actually came to me and said ... ‘I am going to be here. I am going to be here. I came here to get an education. I graduate in December, and I’m going to be here,’” Saban said Hurts told him.

It’s anybody’s guess whether the elder Hurts’ comments were the result of prodding by a reporter, or whether he’s just a proud father sticking up for his son, but Saban doesn’t seem to be concerned that either player is going to be headed out, at least until this season is over.

He also floats the possibility of using both players in some sort of role all season, which depending on who you ask is either exciting or nausea inducing. That concept is also tough to sell as what’s best for either player considering the redshirt rule. Perhaps this offense will be so explosive that changing from one QB to the other is a seamless transition all year, and the two men each put up three TDs in a national title game blowout. That kind of team chemistry is exceedingly rare, however.

In any case, Saban makes it clear that both men are still very much in the race.

“I told them both, ‘The more that you can do in your performance, your leadership, how you affect other people, the relationships you have on the team and the confidence that you develop in other players in your ability to distribute the ball, because that’s what the quarterback is -- the distribution center of the ball -- then that’s the guy who’s going to have the best opportunity to win the team,’” Saban said. “That has been my message to the players, and they’re both going to get a fair opportunity.”

Watching film, it seems obvious that Tagovailoa is far superior in terms of distributing the football, and if that remains the case, he should win the job easily. Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain: the QB question isn’t going anywhere until Saban names a starter, and it’s going to be a challenge to keep it from becoming a distraction, particularly with ESPN cameras at practice this fall.