TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Being at Alabama is going to take some getting used to for Honolulu, Hawaii, native Tua Tagovailoa.
The top-rated dual-threat quarterback in the 2017 class can't shut off his phone and ignore being internet-famous, as he could before. Now that he has enrolled in school, he's begun to experience first-hand the depth of Crimson Tide fans' knowledge of recruiting. He'll find himself walking around campus, minding his own business, when someone will recognize him and shout, "Tua! Tua!"
"It's pretty crazy," he said. "These people are willing to cross the road while it's a green light, you know, just to come and say 'hi' to you."
Of course, hardly anyone knows how to correctly say his last name yet -- it's pronounced tongue-vi-lo-ah, for the record -- and most people have given up and taken to calling him Tua T. In some corners of the internet, the 6-foot-1 lefty has been referred to as the "Hawaiian Tim Tebow" or the next Marcus Mariota.
But you can call him QB2. Because, for the time being, he's the backup with no clear timeline on when he'll actually play.
Tagovailoa represents a situation unique to Alabama: Nick Saban and his coaching staff signed a record 21 ESPN 300 prospects on Feb. 1, but predicting where all the pieces will fit is nearly impossible. On a roster loaded with accomplished former four- and five-star prospects, there's no promise of early playing time for anyone.
And still, they chose to come to Tuscaloosa.
Tagovailoa could have easily selected a program with a more manageable depth chart, whether that meant a team with an ongoing quarterback competition or an outgoing senior quarterback. Instead, he went to Alabama where Jalen Hurts, who this past season scored more than 30 total touchdowns as a true freshman and won SEC Offensive Player of the Year, awaits with two years until he can turn pro and three more seasons of eligibility.
And you know what? Tagovailoa didn't care. He said that even if quarterbacks Blake Barnett, Cooper Bateman and David Cornwell didn't all transfer, he would have been fine listening to Southerners butcher his last name.
"It had no factor," Tagovailoa said. "You have to go places to compete. So why not come to the best place?"
Najee Harris, Tagovailoa's roommate, thought the same thing.
Harris, a five-star running back from Southern California, wanted to practice where everyone was a five-star, he said. While Michigan made a late push to sign Harris, he stuck with his verbal commitment to the Tide.
Frankly, nobody would have blamed him if he hadn't, though, seeing as Alabama's entire offensive backfield consisted of underclassmen last season. Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough, the No. 1 and 2 backs, were sophomores and freshmen Joshua Jacobs and B.J. Emmons played well as reserves.
Even before Harris signed, it was hard to imagine running backs coach Burton Burns and a to-be-determined offensive coordinator (after Steve Sarkisian's surprising move to the Atlanta Falcons) finding the right formula to keep everyone happy. Now Harris enters the picture as a talent that will be difficult to ignore.
Just look at what Saban, who is as averse to hype as any coach in America, said.
"Najee is a very good all-around player," he said, "one of the best players in the country, according to a lot of people's evaluation. He's got great size, he's got great speed, he's very fluid and smooth athletically, very complete. Has very, very good hands, good route-runner, has special production as a player."
Good luck redshirting someone with those qualifications.
(Side note: Redshirting is not an insult at Alabama. It worked out well for former cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who played so well as a redshirt sophomore that he turned pro early.)
There are a few players, however, who appear likely to play right away.
On defense, Dylan Moses, the No. 1-rated athlete in the country, could be a natural fit at linebacker. He told ESPN he sees himself as a similar player to former Alabama middle linebacker Reuben Foster, who vacated a starting spot when he graduated following this past season. And if playing inside doesn't work, he could bump outside, where there are big shoes to fill rushing the passer now that Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson are gone.
On offense, there are a few names to know beyond Tagovailoa and Harris, with Alex Leatherwood as maybe the most likely true freshman to start. A five-star prospect and the No. 3-rated offensive tackle from Florida, he could step in for departing left tackle Cam Robinson, or play right tackle if Freshman All-America right tackle Jonah Williams switches sides on the line. There's even a possibility Leatherwood could play at guard if Saban thinks he adds value.
With starting receiver ArDarius Stewart gone, Jerry Jeudy might be able to play early as well. He certainly fits the mold of past freshman standouts Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley in that he's also from South Florida, checks in around 6-foot-1 and is a top-10 prospect at his position.
Hitting on three such prospects in a row would be remarkable, but not impossible.
Recruiting, as Saban said, is an inexact science.
For that matter, remember that Tagovailoa wasn't the only quarterback in this class. Mac Jones, a four-star and top-20 pocket passer, isn't on campus yet, but he's on his way soon and should be able to participate in spring practice.
Whether it's Jones, Tagovailoa or Hurts, Saban seems to understand that you can't have too many talented quarterbacks to choose from. Or running backs. Or receivers. Or offensive linemen. Or any basically any position on defense.
Alabama has an embarrassment of riches thanks to its tireless recruiting, and it's always good to have money in the bank.