Nick Saban provides the latest on Tua Tagovailoa's status against LSU
Tua Tagovailoa’s injured right ankle appears to be improving. However, Nick Saban’s stance on the starting quarterback’s status remains the same. With just three days remaining until No. 3 Alabama’s matchup against No. 2 LSU on Saturday, the head coach continues to state Tagovailoa’s availability will be a game-time decision.
“Tua’s worked hard to try to get back to where he has an opportunity to play,” Saban said during his Wednesday post-practice news conference. “He’s been able to practice some. We still don’t know what his status for the game is going to be. We’ll make it when the game comes.”
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Earlier in the day, Saban told ESPN that Tagovailoa has made promising strides this week and that “there's a good chance he will play” against LSU. According to the article, the head coach said the major concern over the starting quarterback is his mobility. Although, that appears to be improving as the week progresses.
“If you watched (Tuesday's) practice film, you would have a hard time even recognizing that the guy is hurt," Saban told ESPN. "But we're not asking him to do everything he would in a game. He's not scrambling for a first down. He's not getting chased by a defensive end or any of that stuff, so it's a little bit controlled. We'll continue to monitor him and see how he progresses, but we're pleased with where he is.”
Tagovailoa, who had a tightrope procedure on his right ankle on Oct. 20, has participated in the team’s past five practices. Wednesday, he looked to be moving well during quarterback drills which included drop-back throws and rollouts. Earlier this week, Saban said that Tagovailoa’s performance during practice will determine how Alabama prepares him for Saturday’s game.
“We don’t know what kind of setbacks he’s going to have and how he’s going to continue to progress,” Saban said Wednesday, “so there’s nothing I can really say about it.”
While Saban hasn’t definitively ruled Tagovailoa active for Saturday, the feel coming from Alabama’s camp is encouraging. Both Saban and Crimson Tide players have reported the left-hander to be in good spirits this week while on his road to recovery.
“His attitude has been great. His work ethic has been great,” Saban said. “I think he has a real positive attitude about what he’s doing because he’s actually had this same injury before.
"I think when you get injured you’re very apprehensive about how to go about coming back from it, but when you’ve had it before I think you have a more positive feeling about how you can come back from it. So all those things have been very. positive for him.”
Added offensive lineman Jedrick Wills: “He’s always been super positive, so even with his injury he was still positive. He goes in there, gets his rehab, his treatment, his work in, comes out to practice no matter if he’s participating or not. Just like in the game last week, week before last, he comes out with that same energy, that positive standpoint to keep everybody uplifted.
As Saban pointed out, Tagovailoa underwent the same tightrope procedure on his left ankle following last year’s SEC Championship Game against Georgia. The quarterback was able to return 27 days later to play in the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma. While he won’t have the benefit of an extra week this year, Tagovailoa’s current injury isn’t thought to be as severe as the one he experienced last season.
“I have full confidence in him,” Wills said. “They wouldn’t put him out there if he can’t play, and he’ll know himself, too, if he can play or not. It’s up to them and what they decide, but we’re behind him all the way.”
While the current expectation is that Tagovailoa will be recovered enough to play against LSU on Saturday, Alabama remains confident regardless of his status. Mac Jones made his first career start against Arkansas, completing 18 of 22 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns while leading the Crimson Tide to a 48-7 victory.
“You’ve got to make the most of your opportunities regardless of what it is,” receiver Henry Ruggs III said. “When the ball’s coming your way, you’ve got to make your plays. So, regardless of who’s at quarterback, we’ve got to make our plays.”
The Crimson Tide will return to the practice field later this afternoon. Saban will hold his final game-week news conference following the workout.
Alabama (8-0, 5-0 in the SEC) will host LSU (8-0, 4-0) on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CT. The game will be televised by CBS.