Prior to the start of Alabama spring practice, junior Jalen Hurts and sophomore Tua Tagovailoa were expected to battle it out for 15 practices in the most anticipated position battle in college football this season. That battle has yet to begin, however, after Tagovailoa during Alabama's first practice and soon had surgery.
According to coach Nick Saban, Tagovailoa suffered another setback during Friday's practice, which will delay the battle even further.
Nick Saban: “Tua (Tagovailoa) had a little setback yesterday with his hand. Doctors are trying to evaluate the best course of action. … I can’t really tell you anything more. He didn’t take any snaps today. He didn’t that many snaps yesterday.”— Terrin Waack (@terrinvictoria) April 14, 2018
With one week to go prior to Alabama's spring game, it's safe to say that the actual battle just isn't going to happen ... until the summer. That throws a wrench in the works for an Alabama staff that, had Tagovailoa's injury not occurred, would likely have been forced into a quarterback decision shortly after spring practice
Hurts has lost two games in two seasons as the Crimson Tide's starting quarterback en route to two College Football Playoff appearances. Yes, he was limited in the passing game and protected by his coaching staff during the majority of those two years, but playing it safe was the proper course of action until Hurts' struggles put Alabama in a 13-0 halftime hole vs. Georgia in the College Football Playoff National Championship this past January.
Tagovailoa saved the day with three second-half touchdowns, leading the Tide to a 26-23 overtime win.
Both guys have proven they have the ability to play quarterback in college at an elite level. Even if Saban didn't say it publicly and was reluctant to say anything privately, both would know who's taking the majority of the No. 1 snaps by the end of spring practice had Tagovailoa been able to stay healthy.
In years past, battles between AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims (2011), Jake Coker and Blake Sims (2014), and Blake Barnett and Hurts (2016), have bled into the season. But all of those players were unproven to various degrees. Hurts and Tagovailoa in 2018 are the opposite as both have proven to be able to win at an elite level. The timetable for Saban's decision was going to be set by where each stands after spring practice.
That timetable has now been delayed, nobody seems to know when it is going to restart, and the offseason of intrigue in Tuscaloosa will likely continue deep into the offseason.