Alabama backup QB Mac Jones' progress encourages Nick Saban

Alabama redshirt sophomore quarterback Mac Jones (10) entered Friday's start to spring practice as the primary backup to Tua Tagovailoa and looks to repel threats by early enrollees Taulia Tagovailoa and Paul Tyson. Jones played in 14 of 15 games last season for the SEC champion.

Alabama's quarterback competition this spring contains two Tagovailoas, including one who was the Heisman Trophy runner-up last season, and Bear Bryant's great-grandson.

Also in the mix is Mac Jones, a redshirt sophomore who is the primary backup to starter Tua Tagovailoa and will seek to fend off challenges from early enrollees Taulia Tagovailoa and Paul Tyson. Last season's Southeastern Conference champions held their first spring workout Friday afternoon and won't practice again until March 18, when the university returns from spring break.

"We want to get every guy a good shot and a good evaluation," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said Friday evening in a news conference. "We feel like Mac has made a lot of progress since he's been here. He really played well, especially at the beginning of the year last year, when he was getting a lot of reps in fall camp.

"Toward the end of the year, he didn't really have the opportunity to progress like we would have liked, but he's going to get every opportunity to do that now."

The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder from The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida, played in 14 of 15 games last season, missing only the 45-23 triumph over Texas A&M in late September. Most of those appearances occurred as the holder on kicks, but he had his moments as the third-team quarterback behind Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts, who transferred to Oklahoma in January for his final college season.

During the 62-7 pummeling of Ole Miss in Alabama's third game, Jones had his first college pass completion, to Jaylen Waddle for a 30-yard gain. Two weeks later against Louisiana, he connected with Waddle again for a 94-yard touchdown.

Jones had his most meaningful action in the 24-0 blanking of Mississippi State in mid-November, finishing 3-of-6 passing for minus-1 yard while Tagovailoa nursed a bruised knee and with Hurts out due to a high-ankle sprain from the October win at Tennessee.

Opportunities for playing time evaporated after that due to the improving health of Tagovailoa and Hurts and due to Alabama needing longer to put away The Citadel and rival Auburn in its last two regular-season games. Jones didn't play quarterback in the SEC championship game against Georgia or the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma, and an appearance against Clemson in the national title game occurred well after the Tigers were on their way to their 44-16 win.

"I think Mac is a bright guy, and I think he has the right attitude about what he has to do to play winning football at the position," Saban said. "I think he's showing more maturity in his approach to how he goes about doing things and being a leader and affecting other people.

"We're encouraged by everything he's done to this point."

Jones was a three-star signee in 2017 and is the least heralded scholarship quarterback currently with the Tide. The elder Tagovailoa was a five-star signee in 2017, and the younger Tagovailoa and Tyson were four-star signees in the 2019 recruiting cycle.

Pro day set

Alabama will host its annual pro day at noon EDT on Tuesday, March 19, with the SEC Network and the NFL Network providing coverage of the three-hour event. As many as 20 former Tide players are expected to participate, including the 11 who were invited to the recent NFL combine.

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.