Who Will Start for Alabama at quarterback against Mississippi State?

Joey Blackwell

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama football coach Nick Saban discussed the ongoing recovery of junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and the possible start of redshirt-sophomore Mac Jones on Wednesday.

Saban announced that Tagovailoa would be a game-time decision for Mississippi State earlier in the day on Wednesday.

“Tua made a lot of progress today,” Saban said. “First time that some of the soreness has gone out. He’s starting to make a little progress. Still didn’t do a whole lot in practice today."

Tagovailoa was a full-participant in Saturday’s 46-41 loss to LSU, but is still suffering from soreness from the surgery that repaired his high ankle sprain. While he had a solid game, throwing for 418 yards and four touchdown with one interception and a fumble, Tagovailoa’s running and scrambling abilities were noticeably hampered in the game.

That being said, Tagovailoa is still practicing this week and is preparing for Saturday like he will start, albeit gingerly.

“We’ll see where he’s at tomorrow and kinda go from there but you know we got lots of guys that you know we haven’t managed through the year,” Saban said. “When it gets to this point in the season then you know hopefully he’ll be able to do something tomorrow.”

When asked if Jones was preparing to possibly start against the Bulldogs on Saturday, Saban didn’t reveal much.

“Mac’s gotta get ready to go every week,” Saban said. “He’s the backup quarterback. Obviously we’re not going to play somebody in the game that’s not capable of playing. We’re not going to play somebody in the game who hadn’t practiced enough to be able to play in the game effectively and do his job effectively.

After replacing Tagovailoa in the Tennessee game, Jones went on to start against Arkansas and went 18-for-22 with 235 yards and three touchdowns.

Saban discussed that while Jones performed well against Arkansas, Mississippi State’s defense presents an entirely different challenge.

“I thought Mac did a good job in the Arkansas game and I thought he did a good job of preparing that week and this is a little different type of defense,” Saban said. “There’s a lot more pressure, a lot more stunts. They probably pressure about 50 percent of the time. They’ve got a lot of stuff that they do on third downs, so this is a much more challenging preparation I think for him, but he’s done a good job of handling it. He’s smart and we’ll see how it plays in the game.

“I don’t have—I can’t tell you whether a guy’s gonna play good or bad. We just try to prepare them the best we can and most of the time the guys that practice good play pretty well, and he’s practiced pretty well so far this week.”

With Tagovailoa still on the mend, Jones could very well start against the Bulldogs in order to finally give Tagovailoa time to fully heal his ankle. The decision will come Saturday, and will not be an easy one for the coaching staff.

Saban briefly discussed the qualities that they look for in the rehabilitation process that helps them make decisions on if a player is ready to come back to play.

“We have to make a couple of decisions. ‘Is the guy physically ready to play?’ And that’s doc’s decision, the medical staff’s decision. But I’ll never play a guy unless that guy feels like he can play and do his job," he said.

"The second thing is ‘is the guy prepared to play?’ And can he go do his job because he did what he needed to do. We have to manage lots of positions that way.”

Using this method of evaluation, Alabama fans will simply have to wait until Saturday (11 a.m., ESPN) for an answer to who will start at quarterback.

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