TUSCALOOSA — Though there will be a competition throughout spring practice, it is not “out of the question” that Alabama will employ a two-quarterback system next season, coach Nick Saban revealed Friday in an interview with ESPN’s Chris Low.
"The most important thing is to play the best guy, and if both guys can play winning football, it's not out of the question that we'll find a role for both guys in fairness to both guys," Saban said. "I don't know that there's any more to it than that."
The Crimson Tide returns junior Jalen Hurts, a 28-game starter whom the Tide benched for the second half of the College Football Playoff Championship Game in favor of Tua Tagovailoa.
Tagovailoa tossed three second-half touchdown passes, including the game-winner to classmate DeVonta Smith in overtime, leading Alabama to its fifth national championship of Saban era.
"All I've told both players is that they're both going to have the opportunity to compete, and that's all any competitor ever wants," Saban said. "We've won with both, and the kids on our team respect both guys."
Saban is not unfamiliar with two-quarterback systems. At LSU in 2000, Saban and offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher cycled through both Josh Booty and Rohan Davey en route to an 8-4 season, one capped when Saban benched Booty at halftime of the Peach Bowl and inserted Davey, who rallied the Tigers to victory.
Booty departed for the NFL following the season, making Saban’s 2001 choice clear. This offseason offers no such luxury.
A pragmatic, unflappable dual-threat option, Hurts is 26-2 as a starter and tossed just one interception as a sophomore. He accounted for 25 total touchdowns last season and piloted a game-winning drive in the final minute against Mississippi State.
Still, the team experimented with Tagovailoa, the strong-armed true freshman who wowed throughout the season in mop-up duty. Low reported Friday that the Hawaiian prodigy took first-team repetitions while Hurts was ill before the team departed for New Orleans and its Sugar Bowl date with Clemson.
"We knew we had two guys ready to go," Saban said.
Hurts misfired on five of his eight first-half pass attempts in the national title game, stalling a Tide offense that was unable to keep a weary defense on the sideline. Alabama entered halftime down 13-0, and Saban made the switch.
"I told (Hurts), 'We would have never gotten here without you, and even though it wasn't your time (in the championship game) and we needed Tua to give us a spark, that should not be anything but a learning experience for you in terms of what you have to do to be a more consistent player in the future,'" Saban told ESPN.
Now, for Hurts to separate himself, that must manifest itself.
"We're always looking to create competition on the practice field, and it shouldn't be any different at quarterback," Saban said.