TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was effusive in his praise of backup Jalen Hurts on Tuesday, pointing out how the two have maintained a strong relationship through the competition.
At one point, Tagovailoa referenced Kelly Bryant's decision to redshirt and transfer from Clemson. Clemson's starter, Trevor Lawrence, went down with an injury, third-stringer Chase Brice was forced into action and the Tigers had to come from behind late to beat unranked Syracuse at home.
"You guys seen what happened with Clemson's quarterback," Tagovailoa said. "Clemson's quarterback ended up getting hurt and they didn't have Kelly Bryant as well. Could you imagine if something happened to me? Mac Jones would be good, but also having Jalen here, who is very well-experienced -- it's a testament to his character, it's a testament to his morals, with how he was raised within his family. Just him being here within our team, everybody respects him so much. He's a leader and he leads both ways. He leads vocally and he leads doing things."
Tuesday was the first time Tagovailoa had spoken to the media this season.
The hero of last season's College Football National Championship game has been off to a blistering start this year, throwing for 1,161 yards, 14 touchdowns and no interceptions through five games. He has also rushed for two scores.
Widely considered the Heisman Trophy front-runner, Tagovailoa downplayed his own personal accomplishments, redirecting the praise to his receivers on several occasions.
Alabama has scored an FBS-high 271 points this season and Tagovailoa leads all quarterbacks in passing efficiency and QBR.
"That's just the expectation we have as a whole offense," Tagovailoa said. "We have playmakers."
Tagovailoa acknowledged that it's become more difficult to get around town given his newfound fame. Going out to dinner with his family, he said, has become cumbersome with strangers coming up to him and asking to take a picture.
"I mean, we're just trying to be 1-0 every week," Tagovailoa said. "We're just trying to win games, and I think that's the focus. Coach (Nick) Saban said I exceeded his expectations? I don't think I did. He has to be joking with you guys because that's definitely not what Coach Saban would tell us. There's always room for improvement, not only within Coach Saban but within our whole coaching staff and within ourselves, too."
A year and a half ago, Tagovailoa said he couldn't have imagined displacing Hurts as the starter. Hurts was the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Year and the Crimson Tide were ranked No. 1.
"Could you tell me I would be the starter with Jalen here?" Tagovailoa asked rhetorically. "I couldn't tell you that."
Tagovailoa's star turn will continue on Saturday as the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide travel to Arkansas.