Let’s get the drama out of the way. The 2019 starter is... Tua Tagovailoa; the best player in the country.
He didn’t throw an interception until the 9th game of the season, a road win over LSU, which was also the first time he had to actually play in the fourth quarter. Along the way, playing mainly in the first halves of games, Tua completed 355 of 455 passes (69%, nice) for 3966 yards, 43 passing touchdowns and just 6 interceptions. He didn’t have a multi-pick game until the SECCG. And, while a testament to his escapability as much the offensive line’s play, he only had one game where he took more than one sack (MSU 4).
Tua chipped in another 5 scores on the ground, rushing 57 times for 190 yards. And, importantly, Tua led a ‘Bama offense that scored almost 50 points per game and became the first team since the 1888 Yale Elis to beat all of its regular season opponents by 20+. While his first half could have gone better against Clemson — to put it mildly — he still had a complete game that would otherwise be quite acceptable against an elite defense: 294 yards, 65% completion percentage, 2 TD, 2 Ints, just one sack taken.
His trophy case is fat:
- Sporting News College Football Player of the Year; CFPA National Performer of the Year
- Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, National Quarterback Club College Quarterback of the Year
- Heisman Trophy runner-up
- First-Team All-American, First-Team All-SEC, Consensus All-American
- SEC Offensive Player of the Year
SEC (also are school records):
- QBR (199.4. Surpassed Baker Mayfield’s 2017 FBS record)
- Yards per attempt (11.2); yards per play (10.1)
- Passing TDs in a season (43)
- Single-season passing yardage (3,966)
- Total TDs (48)
- Touchdowns in a game (6, Iron Bowl); T-most passing TDs in a game (5, Iron Bowl)
- Most 4-touchdown games in a season (6)
- Most 300-yard passing games in a season (6)
Though, it should be noted that in Alabama’s two biggest appearances, he came up short. First, a banged up Tua was bailed out by Jalen Hurts in Atlanta. And then, while he had a solid game against Clemson, such turnovers as he did have came at the worst possible times, with the Tigers converting them into points. So, the question remains if he is a championship quarterback, from post-to-post, when there is no one else pushing him to be better or able to lean on, as the case may be.
You have to think coming up short in those two moments will drive him more than anything else this season.
His legend has been made with 2nd and 26. But a relief effort isn’t taking the team on his back and exacting revenge for a 15-game season. A third offense in three seasons would be an impediment to most. Fortunately, he’s as smart as is he is risky — and he’s aided by a more conservative scheme with a more talented overall offensive line in 2019.
“Don’t waste the failure,” goes Saban’s mantra...and in this hungry season of redemption, it rings truest for the best player in the nation.
The Battle for Backup.
Now entering his third season, Mac Jones has been a very good practice player. He was quite efficient in last Fall’s camp, and again in both the Spring and Fall 2019 versions. But, dividends were not paid in 2018’s limited action.
[W]hen pressed into service last season, he looked every bit the raw prospect he was out of IMG Academy-by-way-of-Nowheresville, Kentucky. Mac went 5 of 13 (38.55) 1 TD/0 INT against a depressing slate of Ole Miss, ULL, Arkansas State — and, when injuries were overwhelming, Mississippi State. Among notable efforts, he completed 1 of 3 passes against Ole Miss (for 30 yards); 3 of 6 against ‘State (for 5 yards); and his shining moment — the one that inflated his QBR to 148 — a 94 yard touchdown pass against ULL to Jaylen Waddle (that guy makes a lot of nice catches become great ones.)
What we’re saying is that Jones was not ready for prime time.
Again, he rang the bell in this year’s A-Day game, where he was by far the most efficient player under center: 19-of-23, 271 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT. And, in this Saturday’s scrimmage, he again had a great outing.
But, Jones is being pressed by Taulia Tagovailoa, the quarterback of the future. ‘Lia has more upside and more raw talent. He’s also very much a true freshman, as he showed in the A-Day game, where he was both efficient and mistake-prone in equal measure.
For now, it appears Jones has the inside track on the backup job. But, expect this to be a very fluid situation, with both guys getting reps in the Tide’s many 2019 bodybag games — you don’t sign a guy like ‘Lia and keep him on the pine all season.
Whomsoever wins the backup role will need to do it with a bullet and with certainty. The way Tua plays, coupled some of the odd hits he takes (and Alabama’s awful string of injury luck) almost certainly guarantees that the backups will be called on at some point this season.
Backup to the Backup’s-Backup.
Paul Tyson came to campus with plenty of arm strength but a step behind Jones in experience and a step behind ‘Lia in talent. That was apparent in the A-Day game, where he was — to be kind — simply not ready to see an SEC football field (1 of 5, 8 yards, 1 INT).
Tyson may see some snaps, since he gets four freebies under the redshirt rule. But I’d expect it to be strictly victory formation or handing the ball off in the FCS game — if he progresses that far. An active roster spot, while saving his redshirt and getting reps for ‘Lia and Jones, seems the far more likely scenario.
He has a long way to go. But there is no shame in taking time to develop and grow into the kind of player, at the hardest position, and one capable of helming the best team in the country.
Your 2019 backup Quarterback will be...
This poll is closed
Ghost of Bear won’t let Paul fall to 4th on the depth chart. Roll Tide.
Mac and Lia at various times throughout the season