A Case For Alabama Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa

All great athletes have moments that define them. For Alabama sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, his moment came during the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship game against Georgia. Tagovailoa entered the game at the beginning of the third quarter to ignite a struggling Alabama offense, and was named the championship’s Offensive MVP after leading an epic comeback. After the game-winning touchdown that clinched him his fifth championship in the last nine years, Alabama head coach Nick Saban told ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi, “[I’ve] never been happier in my life.”

Even though Alabama has boasted a dominant college football program over the past decade, with Tagovailoa, they have the potential to become even more challenging to beat than ever before.

Since Nick Saban arrived at Alabama in 2007, his quarterbacks have been game managers, focusing on avoiding turnovers and propelling the running game, even though they have had elite receivers including Julio Jones and Amari Cooper, as well as strong defenses, to set the tone. The best quarterback that Alabama had under Saban was A.J. McCarron, who quarterbacked their championship teams in 2011 and 2012, and has been a backup quarterback in the NFL since being drafted by the Bengals in 2014.

Before Tagovailoa came into the National Championship game, Alabama’s starting quarterback was Jalen Hurts, who was very successful in his first two seasons as a starter. In his first season, he won SEC Offensive Player of the Year and led Alabama to the National Championship game. In his sophomore season he had 25 total touchdowns and only one turnover.

While all of Alabama’s previous quarterbacks under Saban have had important roles in helping them win championships, none of them have the pure arm talent that Tagovailoa has.

Tua Tagovailoa is from Hawaii, where he rose to the top of the national high school rankings, and has validated all of the promise that he had when he committed to the Alabama Crimson Tide.

He attended the same high school as 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota. While at Saint Louis School in Honolulu, he threw for more yards than anyone in Hawaii high school football history. Coming into Alabama, he was rated the top dual threat quarterback in the nation.

While he did not start any games during his first college season, when he played, he showed flashes of greatness.

In fact, due to sitting behind Hurts all season, there were rumors of him transferring to UCLA and playing for Chip Kelly after the season.

However, that did not happen as he entered the National Championship game in relief of Hurts to provide the spark that Alabama needed to win.

While Saban has refused to name a permanent starter for the 2018 season, sticking with the hot hand, or arm, is difficult to pass up.

In Alabama’s 2018 season opener against Louisville, Saban played both quarterbacks, and by halftime it was clear that Tua is the man to lead the Alabama offensive attack.

In five first half drives, Tagovailoa led the Tide on four drives that ended in a touchdown, and completed 11/15 passes for 195 yards. With Hurts in the game, Alabama’s passing game struggled, as the offense could not move down the field with consistency.

While Saban refused to answer any questions about who his starting quarterback after the game would be to ESPN’s Maria Taylor, it is difficult to argue that what Tua brings to the table makes Alabama even more dangerous than it has ever been.

Contact Matthew Frankle at [email protected].