John Amis/Associated Press
Less than two weeks remain until the Alabama Crimson Tide take on the Oklahoma Sooners in the College Football Playoff semifinals, and the good news for Nick Saban‘s squad is that Heisman Trophy runner-up Tua Tagovailoa continues to make progress as the Orange Bowl approaches.
“He’s doing well,” Saban said on Monday, according to CBS Sports’ Barrett Sallee. “I think he’s probably ahead of schedule. He’s been able to take a lot of reps. He’s been able to throw the ball from the pocket. He can run. I don’t think he’s 100 percent change of direction yet, but he’s already going 100 percent on the gravity treadmill. He’s been able to practice, and he’s made really, really good progress. So we’re encouraged by that.”
Tagovailoa underwent surgery on Dec. 2 for a high-ankle sprain suffered in the SEC Championship Game.
Simone Eli of CBS 42 tweeted video of the Crimson Tide star moving well during drills on Monday:
Simone Eli @SimoneEli_TV
From #Alabama practice just moments ago: Tide QB Tua Tagovailoa’s recovery looking positive while he goes through drills this afternoon. #CFBplayoff #RollTide @CBS_42 https://t.co/RrmYHawRtp
Given the Orange Bowl will be played less than one month after Tagovailoa went under the knife, there have been questions as to whether or not he will be able to play against the Sooners. However, he has little doubt that he will be on the field with his teammates in Miami.
“I know I’ll be back before the first game of December,” Tagovailoa told ESPN earlier this month. “I’ll be back to play in the Orange Bowl.”
That would be big for the Alabama offense. Tagovailoa led the Crimson Tide to a perfect 12-0 regular season, with no game being decided by fewer than 22 points. Including the SEC title game, the 6’1″, 218-pound passer has completed 67.7 percent of his passes for 3,353 yards, 37 touchdowns and four touchdowns.
Of course, that comes on the heels of him entering the 2018 College Football Playoff Championship Game at halftime and rallying his team to an overtime victory as a freshman.
If Tagovailoa is unable to go on Dec. 29, Alabama should still be in good hands. Junior Jalen Hurts stepped up and helped the Crimson Tide finish a second-half comeback against the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC title game. The former SEC Offensive Player of the Year completed seven of nine passes for 82 yards and a touchdown against Georgia, adding 28 yards and a score on the ground as well.
Not to mention the fact Hurts is also 26-2 as a starter.
Having a healthy Tagovailoa would allow Saban to game plan around his No. 1 quarterback while also having Hurts available as a proven backup. Tagovailoa’s progress to this point is certainly encouraging news, but it will be worth keeping an eye on him until his status is officially announced.