Florida State and Alabama both have something in common heading into the start of the 2018: neither team knows who the starting quarterback will be in Week 1.
In Tuscaloosa, it’s Jalen Hurts, who boasts a 26-2 record as a starter, versus Tua Tagovailoa, who famously came off the bench to engineer a 13-point comeback in the national championship against Georgia almost four months ago.
Tagovailoa started the second half after Hurts was pulled due to poor performance—the Tide were shut out at the break—and proceeded to throw three touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime. After the game, Tagovailoa was named the game’s offensive MVP.
Of the two, only Hurts took part in Alabama’s spring game on Saturday since Tagovailoa is sidelined with an injury to his throwing hand. The rising junior completed 19-of-37 passes for 195 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.
Two days before the spring game, which Alabama calls “A-Day,” Hurts’ father told Bleacher Report his son would transfer if he lost the quarterback competition and would become “the biggest free agent in college football history.”
Even with the opportunity to pull ahead of Tagovailoa in the competition, Hurts struggled to find his rhythm and failed to score a touchdown.
Despite his struggles, Hurts, as he always does, stayed even-keel and didn’t appear to bestow blame on his receivers or offensive line for the issues that plagued the offense.
After A-Day, Alabama head coach Nick Saban told media members he wasn’t disappointed in Hurts’ play, but how much of that is truth and how much is coachspeak?
Quarterback competitions are nothing new in college football, but, I have to admit, rarely do they involve a quarterback who has led his team to back-to-back appearances in the national championship game with a 40-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
But this competition is real, and I think one thing is for sure: Hurts didn’t help his case to be the starter on A-Day.
There’s still a long way to go in this race—especially once Tagovailoa returns from injury—and it wouldn’t shock me if Saban let things bleed into the season before making a definitve decision at quarterback.
At FSU, new head coach Willie Taggart inherits two talented young signal callers as he heads toward the fall.
Rising junior Deondre Francois, who looks to regain the starting role after a suffering a season-ending knee injury in the first game of 2017 against Alabama, has had an interesting last few days.
Last week, it was announced Francois has been the subject of a drug investigation by Tallahassee police, in which he was believed to be in the possession of large amounts of marijuana with the intent to sell.
Two months after it began, the investigation failed to yield anything substantial against Francois and he was not arrested. Before the announcement, Francois was not expected to participate in the spring game as he recovers from his injury, and he was present on the sideline.
Taggart told media members he met with Francois and that the team was handling the situation internally.
“He’s still with our football team,” Taggart said after FSU’s spring game. “… We talked about his responsibility as a student athlete here, and he understands my expectations and what I’m looking for, especially when it comes to our quarterback.”
In the lead up to the spring game Francois seemed to progressing well in his injury rehab, but is still limited to individual and 7-on-7 drills.
Perhaps the main beneficiary of Francois’ situation is James Blackman, who took Francois’ place last season and started the remaining 12 games of the season. As a freshman, Blackman struggled initially, but started to find his rhythm at the end of the season.
Needing to win three games to become bowl eligible, FSU beat Delaware State, rival Florida and Louisiana-Monroe to reach 6-6. In those three games, Blackman completed 61 percent of his passes and threw six touchdowns.
A big reason for Blackman’s improvement down the stretch is FSU decided to run its offense at a much faster pace, something Taggart also loves to do.
It seems like Blackman has the upper hand right now in this race. He’s showed great resilience and poise in 2017, leading FSU to a bowl game, and unlike Francois, he isn’t injured nor does he have any off-field problems to this point.
I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Blackman ultimately wins the job.