Alabama Crimson Tide
Inside Slant | Notes, Quotes | Strategy and Personnel
Question for No. 1 Tide: Play Tua this week?
With Alabama set to play its annual breather before the Iron Bowl, there really is only one question for the No. 1 Crimson Tide.
Tua or no Tua?
The Heisman Trophy front-runner has been dealing with a problematic right knee, and he had to come out of last week's 24-0 win over Mississippi State after taking his fourth sack near the end of the third quarter.
He had trouble walking off the field, which led to much weekend speculation that Tagovailoa would take a seat this week as Alabama (10-7, 7-0) plays host to The Citadel (4-5 in the FCS) at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Except nobody asked coach Nick Saban about that possibility until Monday.
"Why would we do that?" he said about resting Tagovailoa.
"To say this was not an important game or he doesn't need to play? I think we need to do a better job of the people playing around him, doing what they're supposed to do so he doesn't get hit. And he needs to do a better job of stepping up in the pocket and getting rid of the ball, which he had several opportunities to do.
"Some of these hits could be avoided by better execution, and I think that's what we're going to focus on, not trying to take a guy out of the game so he can't improve or do what he needs to do to get better.
"We need to do what we need to do to get better as a team and develop confidence in each other."
Because backup Jalen Hurts was unavailable last week because of an ankle injury, so redshirt freshman Mac Jones finished the game. Hurts is "day-to-day," Saban said Monday.
"He's definitely getting better," the coach said. "Tua's OK. He's going to be able to practice, so that's not an issue."
Alabama, which has posted consecutive shutouts of LSU and Mississippi State, could easily handle The Citadel with a walk-on quarterback, so it would seem an unnecessary risk to play Tagovailoa. We'll see what Saban ends up doing, or how long a tune-up Tagovailoa gets if he does indeed start.
After this week, Alabama plays Auburn and then Georgia in the SEC title game.
"I think everybody is kind of banged up right now," Saba said.
"We've had two very physical games in a row. I think the key to the drill is don't focus how you feel, but choose to do the things you need to do to improve and get better and get well prepared for the game and play well in the next challenge.
"But we're not going to take the approach in any game that we play that we're not going to play players and take guys out and do all this and play someone else and assume that the opponent that we're playing is not capable of being very competitive. That can be your mindset. That's not our mindset; that's not going to be the mindset of our players.
"And I'm not really interested in any of your suggestions about how we should manage our team and what we should do to get better, regardless of what you think, just because we're playing the Citadel."