Saban offers update -- but no hints -- on Alabama quarterback battle

Alabama coach Nick Saban addressed the elephant in the room before anyone else could.

“I think the No. 1 thing that you want to talk about is the quarterback controversy that you’d like to create, that you’ve already created, that you’re going to continue to create,” Saban said Wednesday at the SEC Media Days at the College Football Hall of Fame. “And I will tell you the same thing, it’s that they are still to be determined as to who’s going to play quarterback at Alabama.”

But that didn’t stop reporters from trying to pry deeper. Saban did his best to withhold any hints.

“I have no idea. I expect him to be there. I think it’s our job to give both players a fair opportunity to have a chance to win the team and their position. One of the two guys — obviously both are capable — will create a hole for one or both of those guys on our team, and they’ll all have to make a decision based on what that outcome is as to what their future is at Alabama.”

That’s not to minimize his chances of being a starter or making a great contribution to our team in some way, even if he isn’t the starter.

Tagovailoa, of course, came off the bench in the second half of last season’s national championship game against Georgia to lead the Crimson Tide to a comeback win. He threw for 166 yards and three touchdowns after entering the game, including a 41-yard game-winning strike on second-and-26 that will live in college football lore.

Hurts has started each of his two seasons at Alabama, guiding the program to a 26-2 record in his 28 starts. Seemingly only at Alabama could a player with Hurts’ pedigree have his starting job in question. 

And yet, prevailing public sentiment has shaded slightly toward Tagovailoa since the fateful night in early January.

Hurts remains on the roster, and intends to compete for the job. On Wednesday, Saban indicated he expected that to remain true.

“I have no idea. I expect him to be there,” Saban said on whether Hurts would be on the team for Week 1. “I think it’s our job to give both players a very fair opportunity to have a chance to win the team and their position. I think that one of the two guys — obviously both are capable — will create a hole for one or both of those guys on our team, and they’ll all have to make a decision based on what that outcome is as to what their future is at Alabama.”

That, Saban was quick to point out, does not indicate he is trailing Tagovailoa in the battle — “That’s not to minimize his chances of being the starter,” Saban quickly added. That, he insists, can only be determined by their individual performances in practice in the fall.

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