5. Quarterback (specifically the backup)
Alabama fans seeing Jalen Hurts wearing Oklahoma gear during a publicity junket was probably enough to trigger calls to therapists, for two reasons: One, Bama fans probably weren’t ready to see their beloved former starter wearing someone else’s colors; two, his departure has left a sizable hole in the depth chart behind a starter who has proven to be somewhat injury-prone.
Assuming Tua Tagovailoa holds onto the starting job this spring – which is about like assuming falling into the ocean would get your clothes wet – at least four different players are fighting for the right to put up big numbers against New Mexico State.
Mac Jones was the third-string quarterback last year, but whether he actually improved from his true freshman to redshirt freshman year was a suspect proposition. Jones’ end-of-year numbers were mediocre – 5-of-13 passing, with a 94-yard TD making up most of his 123 yards – but he enters the spring as the presumptive favorite to win the job. A pair of true freshmen, Lia Tagovailoa and Paul Tyson, are next up. Layne Hatcher, a late addition to the 2018 recruiting class, returns. Alabama also has a walk-on QB with some ability, Kyle Edwards.
The other issue at hand is whether Alabama’s style of play will change significantly now that the spread-favoring Mike Locksley is no longer the playcaller. Steve Sarkisian, who favors a more straightforward pro-style attack, returns for his second stint as offensive coordinator. The first assumption is that Sarkisian’s style would favor Jones or Tyson, but we’ll probably have to see what the younger Tagovailoa can bring to the table before making such a prediction. For now, it’s about young players sorting themselves out – and keeping Tua Tagovailoa healthy for as much of the season as possible.
Summary: Absent Tyson or the younger Tagovailoa suddenly exploding this spring, look for Mac Jones to continue as Tua Tagovailoa’s backup. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see both true freshmen redshirt, for that matter. As for Hatcher and Edwards, they are likely in play only if Alabama makes an early call to redshirt the two true freshmen no matter what. The spring will be as much about getting Jones ready to go as it will be installing Sarkisian’s preferred offensive system.
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