ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit expects to see both Alabama quarterbacks in opener
ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who will call Alabama's season opener against Louisville in Orlando on Sept. 1 (7 p.m. CT, ABC), took some time to meet with reporters on Friday.
When he was asked for his opinion about the Crimson Tide's quarterback situation between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, he didn't have a simple answer.
"This is something, isn't it?" he said. "I watched the National Championship Game, and I saw what Tua did in that second half and the heroics. And then I ended up doing their spring game, and Tua, of course, was out, but Jalen played, and he didn't necessarily play well. I kind of left the spring game thinking, yeah, this is definitely almost a no brainer, you know, that Tua's going to be the guy. And I think a lot of people probably were kind of keeping score at home in their own minds, probably were thinking the same thing.
"Then we get to August, and we've got a couple of closed scrimmages, and all reports are that Jalen is not only holding serve, he's been flat out great in these scrimmages, and so is Tua. It's not as if Tua is not doing well. You've got a guy 26-2 as a starting quarterback, who's not doing anything to give his job up in camp, and you've got another guy that was the hero in the National Championship, who's a young superstar. And this might be the best offensive skill that they have.
"They're four deep at running back. They're three or four deep at tight end. They've got four of the best receivers that they've had. They've got a great offensive line. If they find a guy that can just be a distributor, just -- again, we don't need anybody to run around. We don't need anybody to do anything crazy. Distribute the ball. Find the open man. Have an answer. That sounds like Tua when I say that, but Coach is making it pretty clear that it sounds like, if they don't both play in the Louisville game, that would be the biggest upset for me. Like if Jalen plays the whole game, I'd be shocked. If Tua plays the whole game, I'd be shocked.
"I think they're going to both play, and if one of them starts to kind of be more consistent, then maybe he becomes the guy. But as we sit here right now, we're about a week away from their opener, I don't know if anybody knows the answer truly, and I talked with Coach earlier today. He seems to be pretty adamant -- you know, he always likes to say, I want to see a guy win the team. Which one of these guys is going to win the team in camp? It sounds like they're both winning the team. So it would be unprecedented for Coach to go from being I want to see who wins the team -- he's always had these quarterback controversies and eventually picks a guy, whether it's Coker or Blake Sims or whoever it is.
"Jalen ended up beating the kid that transferred out to Arizona State, Barnett. So he's always had an either/or, but he's always picked one guy. Now he's approaching this one thinking, hey, maybe I play them both. I think eventually somebody's going to win it, but I think it's going to be based on how they're playing when they go out there against Louisville or Arkansas State. Or maybe it's not until the first true road game in Oxford in week 3 against Mississippi.
"But I think by the time they get to the meat of their schedule, one of these guys will have emerged as the guy. I don't think we know that answer right now."
On Thursday, Herbstreit tabbed Tagovailoa as his pick for breakout player of the year during his annual Herbie Awards. What change? He talked with Nick Saban earlier Friday.