TUSCALOOSA — Thirteen days before it can earnestly begin to be answered, the question enveloping Alabama’s football program was posed.
Who emerges as the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback — Jalen Hurts or Tua Tagovailoa?
"I don't know,” receiver Calvin Ridley said, allowing a smile to spread across his face.
“They're going to find a way to get both of those great football players to be playing and helping this team."
In an interview last week with ESPN’s Chris Low, coach Nick Saban acknowledged it is “not out of the question” Alabama “finds a role” for both players if performance dictates it. Spring practice begins March 20 and the Tide’s A-Day spring game is set for April 21.
What will occur within those 32 days may remain a mystery. Practices are, of course, closed and scrimmage statistics are rarely disseminated. Making two quarterbacks jockeying for the starting spot available for media interviews is unlikely, too.
How both players handled that January night in Atlanta, when Hurts was benched and Tagovailoa directed an extraordinary second-half comeback in Alabama’s 26-23 national championship game victory has impressed many around the program.
Tagovailoa’s embraced his meteoric rise in fame easily, deflecting much of the attention he receives on social media.
Hurts was involved in — and lost — two lighthearted bets during the season.
He’s now paid restitution for both.
The rising junior chopped off his signature dreadlocks in late January, something he told teammates he’d do if Alabama won the national championship.
Friday, the team’s official Twitter account posted a video of Hurts wearing an Auburn jersey — what he promised Tigers legend Charles Barkley he’d don if the Tide lost the Iron Bowl.
Hurts promised to wear the jersey on campus. In the video, Hurts said he is late for English class. He bent down to pick up his team-issued, crimson bookbag, which contained the Tide’s championship protruding from the back.
“Roll Tide,” he said with a smile, departing the shot as the opening notes of “Sweet Home Alabama” blare.
“He dealt with it better than I did, better than I would have,” former Tide quarterback Blake Sims said of Hurts. “Most definitely. To know that you only lost two games your whole (career) and get pulled, I was very surprised to see a smile on his face. What player would you see with a smile? I hope that showed everyone that he’s more about the team than himself and that he wants to be a winner. You can’t do nothing but respect that.”
Sims was back for Alabama’s Pro Day on Wednesday. In part, it was an attempt to resurrect his quarterbacking career.
He also needed to see both quarterbacks.
“They’re two great guys,” Sims said. “That’s just how life works. Sometimes God puts you in spots to see how strong you are because if God does something to you and you react to it bad, he can’t bless you with something else. Maybe this is just a test for both of them, for God to see how far he can bless them.”
Sims offered little in the way of a prediction for this quarterback battle, unlike any of the Saban era. The 26-year-old former Tide signal-caller called Saban the “goat” — greatest of all time — ensuring he’d find a way to properly utilize the best players.
“(Hurts) is my little bro. Tua’s my little bro,” Sims said. “And I want to see them both be the best they can be. I told them, ‘Y’all have to help each other. We all wear the crimson. That’s the motto right now.’”