Top-ranked Alabama will kick off its season this Saturday against Louisville. With only five days before the first game of the year, the depth chart should be locked into place and everyone should know their roles as the Crimson Tide prepares to defend their national title. However, Nick Saban still has yet to announce who will play quarterback. The first depth chart of the season lists Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa as co-starters.
Hurts and Tagovailoa have been locked into an unusually contentious QB battle since January, when Tagovailoa, then a freshman, famously came on for Hurts at halftime of the national championship game and keyed Alabama’s huge comeback win. Hurts is one of the best running quarterbacks in the nation, but his arm isn’t nearly as good as Tagovailoa’s and he struggled in back-to-back national championship games. For that reason, the Hawaiian is probably the front-runner to get the starting job even though Hurts has been entrenched as the team’s starter since the second game of his freshman season.
Both players rank among the best QBs in the nation, and both have made some noise about transferring at various points in the past year. Tagovailoa said in May that he was thinking about leaving Alabama for USC if he didn’t get a chance to play in the national championship game, while Hurts’s father told Bleacher Report in April that if his son didn’t win the starting job, “He’d be the biggest free agent in college football history.”
It’s a very delicate situation, especially since both have multiple years of NCAA eligibility left. And it doesn’t seem that Alabama’s coaching staff has handled the situation very well: Hurts said earlier this month that his coaches had been alarmingly incommunicative with him about his status over the course of this offseason. He called the situation “uncontrollable.”
For his part, Nick Saban has claimed that there is no quarterback controversy and said, inevitably, that it’s all bullshit cooked up by the media. Saban also publicly told Hurts and Tagovailoa to shut up in order to minimize distractions. “You’ve gotta win the team,” he said. “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.”
When Saban was asked about his refusal to name a starter today, he once again pretended to be confused about why anyone would think his quarterback situation is an odd one. “None of that has been decided yet. I wish we could talk about something else,” he said.
There you have it: Alabama’s starting quarterback will be a college football player. It’s settled.