Nick Saban has handed Mac Jones the baton, and the Alabama quarterback plans on running the offense well against Arkansas.
With an ankle injury to Tua Tagovailoa, Jones gets the start on homecoming at Bryant-Denny Stadium this weekend and ran the first-team group in practice.
He replaced Tagovailoa prior to halftime against Tennessee and played the whole second half in a 35-13 win last week.
Despite completing six of 11 passes for 72 yards, Jones suffered two critical drops on attempts that would have kept the Crimson Tide ahead of schedule and helped his overall numbers.
All in all, the sophomore did nothing to hurt the team and with a full week of preparation, his teammates and coaches have full ‘confidence’ in him.
In speaking with various players, they all know what Jones can do.
Miller Forristall, in particular, said the native Floridian can ‘throw the crap out of the football’ and that he enjoys being underestimated. For someone who does not get a lot of consistent reps, Trevon Diggs said Jones has all the confidence in himself.
“He is going to throw the ball. He is going to make plays,” Diggs said.
On Wednesday, Saban put the final piece of Jones’ armor on as he called him the ‘top dog’ for Saturday’s meeting with the Razorbacks.
This will be his first career start for the Tide.
“Mac’s gotta be the leader of the team,” Saban said.
“He’s gotta take over the team. When you are the backup player, you are a little bit like the sparring partner… But you can’t be that any more. You are the lead fighter.”
Others may care about the way he places passes or is he leading receivers in stride; however, confidence comes first for Saban.
Jones, who carries the mentality of “The Joker” according to his teammates, has been waiting for this moment his entire life. He does have to be Tagovailoa, but the most efficient version of himself as he looks to get Alabama to its second bye week.
“You have to take command and you have to play with confidence,” Saban said.
“You can’t have bad body language in front of the rest of your teammates. Regardless of what happens, you gotta be able to play the next play and he has responded really well. He’s practiced pretty well in practice, the last couple of days.”
Saban has encountered moments where a star player went down and its backup at the position filled in admirably. Tagovailoa sustained an injury in last year’s Southeastern Conference title game and it was Jalen Hurts, who came off the bench and led the team to a win over Georgia.
During the 2003 season with LSU, Rohan Davey was the starter in the SEC Championship matchup against Tennessee. He got hurt in the game and Saban replaced him with Matt Mauck and the Tigers found a way to win. In his mind, Saban believes the players around the quarterback are just as responsible. He said you can’t blame Jones for dropped passes.
With the 2009 BCS National Championship squad being honored this week, all eyes will be on the command that Jones shows in the offense.
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