Sunday, September 15, 2019

Tua Tagovailoa has become a better quarterback than Jalen Hurts

Some Tide Fans may strongly disagree with this conclusion. I fully expect to get some flack for expressing it. Oh, well. How many other fanbases can even have this discussion?  You, dear readers, and discussions like this one are the reason why the CFB media hate Alabama football. So... onwards.

The September 14, 2019 game against Gamecocks in Columbia, South Carolina has convinced me. Allow me to try and convince you that

Tua > Jalen

In the 2018 season, Jalen Hurts swallowed his pride and accepted his role as the backup quarterback to the sensational and immensely talented Tua Tagovailoa. Even after leading the 2017 team to the national championship game against Georgia, Hurts became the more-than-capable backup in a quarterback depth chart unequaled in college football.

Hurts' greatest weakness: An all-to-quick willingness to pull the ball down and run when the target receiver in a pass play was covered. If the receiver wasn't open or blew his route, Hurts used his God-given athletic talent to make something happen on the ground. Prior to the 2018 Championship Game, no one had fielded the defensive talent and coaching acumen to take away Hurts' first receiver and limit his scrambling. Georgia and Saban disciple Kirby Smart brought that in the first half.

Master Nick Saban inserted Tua Tagovailoa in the second half. Georgia had no answer for Tua's different skill set and the rest is football history.

Tagovailoa brings a similar-but-distinct talent to the quarterback position. He has a great arm, he's pinpoint accurate and he's a formidable ball carrier. Tua also has an uncanny ability to read defenses at the line of scrimmage and check into the right play before the ball is snapped. Jalen can read defenses, but not like Tua can.

Prior to the 2018 SEC Championship game, no one could stop Tua. Again Georgia and Smart brought skills and abilities what no one else had. Again Master Saban shapeshifted, swapped in Jalen for Tua and...

For the second time in two seasons, Georgia had no good answer for a backup quarterback coming in and snatching a sure win away from them. Just like the Championship Game the previous January, the entry of the backup signal caller completely changed the texture and flow of the game and just like last time, Alabama snatched the glory from Georgia at the very end.

This time though, Alabama ran into a Clemson defense that had the athleticism and coaching talent to show Tua one thing in the pre-snap formation and  drop or shift into something different. Tua simply couldn't adapt quickly enough. His greatest weakness was an inability to check down into a receiver rotation and get the ball to the guy who's open.

Take away what he thought he was being given and Tua played the 2019 Championship Game almost like a lost child. Inserting Jalen didn't help--Clemson had seen this trick played twice before and wasn't falling for it. Alabama got whipped in their only loss of the 2018 season. It is what it is, aight?

Something has changed though,  y'all.  In the first three games of the 2019 season, Tua has shown that he has begun conquering that weakness.  In fact, he may already have done so and is now honing himself into a breathtakingly dangerous quarterback.  He has learned that when the defense takes something away, it must give up something else. Tua has learned how to quickly find out what has been given up, and put the ball where the defense doesn't want it to be.

South Carolina s a talented and well coached team. So was Duke (New Mexico State was a tackle-duumy scrimmage). Tua carved those defenses up with pre-snap reads, methodical check-downs and his ever present pinpoint accuracy.

Honestly, Tua has become a better, faster, stronger AJ McCarron. McCarron is a gifted pre-snap reader and receiver checker-downer. He won two BCS Championships and shredded Alabama passing records. The only things he lacked was sprinter run speed and a fleet of 4-6 elite receivers. Tua has all of that and McCarron's ability to find the right guy at the right time. He's in the process of re-shredding MCcarron's records.

Against Duke on a neutral field and South Carolina on the road, Tua is 54-67 for 780 yards and nine touchdowns. For all three games to date, he is 70-91 for 1,002 yards and 11 TDs. His completion percentage is 77%, he has a QB Rating of 213.4, he has yet to throw a single interception and he has a touchdown pass for every eight times he drops back to throw. These numbers are obscene.

Like all Tide faithful, I hold a special place in my heart for Jalen Hurts. His willingness to give it all for Alabama in unquestionable. His sense of being a team player exemplifies what Nick Saban hopes every one of his pupils develops. He demonstrates the kind of selflessness and humility that every parent wants their kids to show in everything they do. When asked to be a leader, Jalen is a leader. When asked to be a clipboard carrier, Jalen is the best clipboard carrier ever. He is 100% awesome and we are blessed to have had him on our championship teams. I wish him the very best at Oklahoma.

The Sooners are perfectly suited to a man of his talent, experience and character. He will leave Norman a better place for having him, just as he left Tuscaloosa with the gratitude of the Bama Nation. However, Jalen is still being Jalen and the best thing he has going for him at Oklahoma is that he won't have to face many defenses built by Saban or his pupils between now and the Holiday Season.

 I honestly hope Bama doesn't have to face him in the 2019 playoffs, should both the Tide and Sooners make it that far this year. He is a dangerous man with the ball in his hands. If that game happens though, Oklahoma will look at the aftermath and say, "we wish we had gotten Tua when we had the chance to recruit him because Tua's even better than Jalen."


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