I’m all in on Tua Tagovailoa, but here’s the 1 thing I still need to see from him
I have zero doubts about Tua Tagovailoa.
He was my preseason prediction to earn first-team All-SEC honors. I saw him play in person in the opener against Louisville and all it did was increase my appreciation for just how good he is. In fact, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a better college quarterback in person in my life.
So yeah, I’m all in on Tagovailoa’s potential. There is, however, one thing that I still want to see from him.
I want to see how Tagovailoa performs against an SEC defense that game plans for him to be the focal point of the offense. That, we have yet to see.
Did Tagovailoa light up Georgia and do things in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship that will be remembered forever? Absolutely. But did Georgia prepare for a scenario in which Tagovailoa was going to be the guy? Absolutely not.
And yeah, Louisville had 8 months to prepare for Tagovailoa. But that was still preparing for a guy with 0 career starts. That’s far different from seeing how he responds after several starts against the conference.
On Saturday against Ole Miss, Tagovailoa will get his first start against an SEC defense. Well, sort of. Based on the Rebels allowing 41 points to FCS Southern Illinois, Tagovailoa shouldn’t have any problems getting going in Oxford.
But this is a storyline worth following as Tagovailoa begins to work his way through the SEC.
Right now, Tagovailoa is this phenomenon that we’re still in the early stages of figuring out. He’s like the top prospect in the minor leagues who gets called up and homers in his first 5 games. When someone does something like that, it’s hard not to believe that the potential is through the roof.
What often winds up happening is that the more film that becomes available on a player, the better job teams do of finding and exploiting their weaknesses. Oh, this guy will swing at any slider on 2-strike counts? Cool. Oh, this quarterback actually struggles more against a 3-man front than a blitz? Noted.
It’s what happens after the opponent makes the adjustment that determines just how good that player becomes.
We’re still not at that stage with Tagovailoa. SEC defensive coordinators are essentially getting one half of game film per week on someone who has played the position nearly perfect in his young career. He’s mobile, he’s smart and he has chemistry with Alabama’s young receivers that Jalen Hurts still doesn’t have.
But that time is coming. We’re eventually going to see Tagovailoa make a handful of horrendous throws that he should have never made, or we’ll see him be too careless with the ball in the pocket and a defensive end will force a costly fumble.
We obviously saw Tagovailoa take that then-disastrous sack that forced 2nd-and-26 to happen. And Nick Saban did point out the need for Tagovailoa to improve his ball security after the Louisville game.
Those instances have still been so few and far between that it’s not like there’s a book out on Tagovailoa’s weaknesses. There might not ever be a book. Maybe there are just a few bullet points:
- Can be forced into ill-advised throws
- Doesn’t hold on to the ball with 2 hands in the pocket
- Trusts his arm too much
I honestly have no idea what the scouting report on Tagovailoa will look like 2 months from now after he has a bunch of starts under his belt. I also don’t know what it’s going to take for his few weaknesses to actually come out. It could just be a play here and a play there until that LSU showdown.
It’ll be the job of someone like LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who has talent galore to work with, to scheme for ways to make Tagovailoa uncomfortable.
That’s the thing that stands out so much with Tagovailoa. His comfort level looks like it’s through the roof. Already.
After one of the most-discussed quarterback battles ever, all he did was enter the opener against Louisville and put the game away by the end of the first quarter. And it was only Arkansas State, but in the first game that Saban officially announced him as the starter, Tagovailoa had 3 touchdown passes in the first 12 minutes.
Tagovailoa is special, and there’s no denying that. The fact that Alabama recorded multiple 50-point games to start the season for the first time since 1925 shows you just how special he has been. He truly seems unfazed in any environment against any team.
But before I declare him the best quarterback in the country or even just in the SEC, I need to see how he performs against conference coordinators who have time to game plan to stop him.
Maybe there is no stopping Tagovailoa and the hype train will be full steam ahead for the rest of his career.
If that’s the case, I’ll gladly stay onboard for wherever it goes.