Butch Dill/Associated Press
The No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide will play both Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa in their season opener against the Louisville Cardinals at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida, on Saturday night.
“I think we have two guys that are weapons, and they’ve both played well, so the plan is to play both guys in the game,” head coach Nick Saban told ESPN’s Chris Fowler in an interview that will air Saturday, according to ESPN.com. “So the only issue is who plays first, and we’ll decide that when the time comes.”
Tagovailoa only attempted 77 passes as a freshman, but he made them count. Appearing in eight games last season, the former 5-star recruit completed 63.6 percent of his throws for 636 yards, 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Those numbers were bolstered by a heroic display in January’s national title game against Georgia. After starting the second half in place of the struggling Hurts, Tagovailoa completed 14 of 24 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns, including a game-winning 41-yard strike to DeVonta Smith in overtime.
Hurts, while not nearly as dynamic a passer, played his role the past two seasons and proved to be a steady game manager for a Crimson Tide team that followed the lead of its dominant defense.
After throwing 23 touchdowns as a freshman, Hurts completed 60.4 percent of his passes for 2,081 yards, 17 scores and a single interception last year. He also piled up 855 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground in 2017.
Those dual-threat attributes, combined with an established track record, afforded him a chance to see action Saturday.
However, the decision didn’t come without drama considering Hurts put the coaching staff on blast for letting speculation swirl about his standing throughout the offseason.
“This is a situation that’s uncontrollable,” he said, according to CBSSports.com’s Kevin Skiver. “Coaches can’t control this situation. They tried to let it die down. No one came up to me the whole spring, coaches included, no one asked me how I felt. No one asked me what was on my mind. Now we’re trying to handle the situation now, for me, it’s kinda late. It’s too late. The narrative has already been created.”
Of course, Hurts won’t head into Week 1 with much clarity since the actual snap-count split hasn’t been confirmed.
And if the national championship was any indication, Hurts should be on a short leash with Tagovailoa waiting to seize the starting job full-time.