TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — For the first time in quite a while, Alabama doesn’t have quarterback competition at the top of the depth chart.
One really has to go back to AJ McCarron’s senior year in 2013 for the last time the happened. Granted, there was an incumbent in 2017, but there was still competition for the job and Tua Tagovailoa eventually took over during the National Championship Game.
This year, Tagovailoa will head into the spring as the clear starter. The Heisman Trophy runner-up was the Walter Camp Player of the Year and won the Maxwell Award, in addition be being named the consensus first-team All-American at his position.
However, for the third straight year he’ll have a new offensive coordinator as Steve Sarkisian, who recruited Tagovailoa at USC, will be calling the plays.
The real question is who will be his backup?
Among the four candidates are two early enrollees, including his younger brother.
“It was fun,” Tagovailoa said about enrolling early in 2017. “I got the opportunity to learn behind Jalen [Hurts], got to learn the offensive system quickly and then we got to play in the spring game. So, you had to learn things quickly. And then you have a whole summer off, which gives you another opportunity to study the playbook before summer comes. Then we end up having 7-of-7 and go right into camp.
“So, coming in early is definitely — well, to me, it’s definitely a positive. I got to learn things a lot quicker whereas if I came in over the summer, I wouldn’t have been as prepared if I were to go in for any other games last year.”
Tua Tagovailoa: Started all 15 games last season and set numerous Crimson Tide records including passing touchdowns (43) and passing yards (3,966), and his 69 percent completion percentage was second. Led the nation in passer efficiency, which is how the NCAA determines its passing champion. Ranked second in the FBS in yards per completion at 16.2 and yards per pass attempt at 11.2. Even better is all of the starting wide receivers will be back in 2018.
Mac Jones: Played in 14 games, missing the Texas A&M victory, and served as the holder on special teams. Was 5-for-13 for 123 yards and one touchdown. Needs a good spring if he wants to establish himself as the backup, but remember he was the A-Day MVP last year.
Layne Hatcher: The sophomore didn’t play last season, and now has two freshmen breathing down his neck. He threw for 15,483 yards and 185 touchdowns during his career and was 41-1 as a starter at Pulaski Academy in Arkansas, including 5,779 yards and 51 touchdowns as a senior.
Taulia Tagovailoa: The early enrollee is on the record as saying he wants to challenge his brother for the starting job. That’s going to be tough, although coaches would love to see it happen. The younger Tagovailoa threw for 3,728 yards and 35 touchdowns as a senior at Thompson High School, and became the only quarterback in state history to have at least four 400-yard passing performances in his career. He led the Warriors to the Class 7A state championship.
Paul Tyson: Another early-enrollee, Tyson is listed as 6-5, 217 pounds, but needs to physically develop some. The quarterback hopes to soon be known for more than the great grandson of Paul W. “Bear” Bryant. He threw for more than 6,500 yards and 69 touchdowns with only 13 interceptions in his 24 games as a starter for Hewitt-Trussville High School.
This is the first story in a series on BamaCentral