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Alabama photo by Kristen Taylor / Alabama backup quarterback Mac Jones would have a much tougher assignment at Mississippi State compared to his starting debut against Arkansas should he be needed, coach Nick Saban said.

Alabama backup quarterback Mac Jones had his way with Arkansas during his one and only Crimson Tide start to date on Oct. 26.

One week later, Mississippi State had its way with the Razorbacks as well.

Tide coach Nick Saban said after Wednesday's practice that Jones is preparing to play this Saturday in Starkville just like he prepares every other week. Should starter Tua Tagovailoa be sidelined against the Bulldogs by his right ankle or another injury, however, Jones should expect a much more complicated challenge.

"I thought Mac did a good job in the Arkansas game, and I thought he did a good job of preparing that week," Saban said in a news conference. "This is a little different type of defense. There is a lot more pressure, and there are a lot more stunts.

"They probably pressure you about 50% of the time, and they have a lot of stuff that they do on third downs, so this is a much more challenging preparation game for him, but he's done a good job of handling it."

Jones, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound redshirt sophomore from Jacksonville, Florida, completed 18 of 22 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns during the 48-7 drubbing of the Razorbacks in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mississippi State traveled to Fayetteville the following week and rolled 54-24.

Tagovailoa returned to action last Saturday against LSU, completing 21 of 40 passes for 418 yards and four touchdowns in the 46-41 loss, but has done very little in practice this week. Saban labeled Tagovailoa's playing status a "game-time decision" Wednesday afternoon during the Southeastern Conference teleconference but provided an update Wednesday night.

"Tua made a lot of progress today," Saban said. "It was the first time that some of the soreness had gone out. He still didn't do a whole lot in practice, and we'll see how he is tomorrow and go from there."

 

Next man up

With starting tight end Miller Forristall out the rest of the regular season with a throat injury that occurred against Arkansas, the Tide have turned to freshman Jahleel Billingsley at that position.

"He's kind of the next man up when Miller got hurt," Saban said of the 6-4, 228-pounder from Chicago. "He's got a lot of ability, and we've been trying to develop him all year long. The big issue for young players is knowing what to do and how to do it and why it's important to keep doing it that way.

"We want to keep working with him and keep developing him, and hopefully he'll be able to make a positive contribution at a position where we're thin right now in personnel."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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