MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Overcoming the mental part of his recovery from left ankle surgery has been the hardest part for Tua Tagovailoa, the Alabama sophomore quarterback said Thursday at the Capital One Orange Bowl media day festivities.
"Really, for the past two weeks, it's been that way," Tagovailoa said. "I'd say regaining not only your confidence, but being comfortable that you're back and being able to do the things I used to be able to do, as far as dropping back and moving in and out of the pocket. This week has been one of the biggest weeks for me.
"I definitely feel a lot better back there and hope to have some fun this Saturday."
Tagovailoa suffered a high ankle sprain against Georgia in the SEC championship game on Dec. 1. After undergoing surgery, he said, he worked hard on making sure he was confident in the ankle. His teammates said it's obvious that confidence has grown.
"You're seeing him bounce around out there, making throws on the move, all the things he's done all season, and he's doing it freely," Alabama running back Josh Jacobs said.
Alabama linebacker Christian Miller said Tagovailoa's commitment to getting back for his teammates has been unwavering.
"He spent his days in the training room getting treatment, mornings and nights," Miller said. "Your mindset is key when you're coming back from an injury, and Tua is one of those guys who's not going to be denied."
Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said Tagovailoa has improved with every practice, particularly the way he's moved around.
"And by game time, I don't think there will be any issues," Locksley said.
One of the big issues, according to Locksley, is making sure Alabama protects Tagovailoa, especially early in the game.
"We don't want to start off and have him take another big shot and get rolled up, but throughout the course of the game, you gotta do what you gotta do when you're playing playoff football," Locksley said. "You've got to call the game and do the things necessary to win."