Nick Saban wants Mac Jones to be 'lead dog' with Tua Tagovailoa out

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- As Alabama coach Nick Saban continues to monitor the progress of injured quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, he's turning his attention to the next man up at the position: redshirt sophomore Mac Jones.

Saban said during the SEC teleconference on Wednesday that he has emphasized to Jones that his role has changed with Tagovailoa out for the season following season-ending hip surgery and that he has to become a leader and "in command" now.

"You're not a sparring partner anymore," Saban said he told Jones. "You're the lead dog, so you've got to be in control of what you're doing and have positive body language, not only in terms of what you do but in how you affect other people."

Jones has attempted passes in eight of Alabama's 10 games this season, including in his first career start against Arkansas while Tagovailoa was recovering from a previous injury. Jones completed 18 of 22 passes for 235 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions during the 48-7 win a month ago.

Jones is expected to start on Saturday as No. 5 Alabama hosts Western Carolina and will be backed up by Tagovailoa's younger brother, true freshman Taulia.

Tagovailoa posted a tweet Wednesday saying that he's "hoping to see everyone this Saturday to support the team for senior day."

Saban called Jones a "bright guy" who "really understands the concepts of what we're trying to do on offense."

"We have a lot of confidence in him and we have some good players around him, so hopefully he'll be able to do his job well enough to continue to allow some of those players to be successful as well," Saban said.

Saban said during the teleconference that he and Tagovailoa have been in communication often since the surgery and that the star QB understands the long road ahead. Alabama orthopedist Dr. Lyle Cain believes that Tagovailoa should be able to begin athletic activity in three months and should be ready to begin throwing again by the spring, according to ESPN's Laura Rutledge.

"I think he realizes the recovery program that he's going to have and the difficulty that he'll have, and I think he's got a really good understanding of what he's looking at," Saban said. "He's always been a great guy to overcome adversity, and he's got a really positive attitude about it."