Run-pass option? Check.
Play-action pass? Check.
Dropback pass? Working on it.
Tua Tagovailoa is a dynamic quarterback with good instincts and amazing accuracy. No one will argue that. It was evident after last season’s performance, which saw the Crimson Tide quarterback put up record-breaking numbers and claim a long list of postseason accolades.
Tagovailoa exploited defenses with the RPO and play-action last season, but under the direction of new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, Alabama will shake it up a bit by adding more pro-style looks.
That will require Tagovailoa to go through a progression of reads to find the open receiver. It's a style Sarkisian, who had coaching stints in the NFL and with West Coast offensive college teams, is familiar with. It’s also a weapon Alabama wants to hone on an already dangerous offense.
“The more things you do well, the harder you are to defend,” Sarkisian said last week in his only media availability for the regular season. “We felt like that was an area we could really improve in. I think Tua has really bought into that. He’s worked extremely hard and has shown drastic improvements, and I think the receivers see it as well.
“So now, it’s are you defending the play-action pass, are you defending the RPO, are you defending the dropback passing game of full progression? One of the misnomers is we are switching to a dropback team. We are trying to add to an offense that was very prolific a year ago.”
Tagovailoa worked with Sarkisian in the spring and now in fall camp, but they have been familiar with each other for a few years. Sarkisian first got a peek at the Crimson Tide QB when Tagovailoa was a high school sophomore in Hawaii.
“The day I saw him throw I’ll never forget,” Sarkisian said. “It was a really windy day in Hawaii and he was cutting (the ball in) the wind and he was extremely accurate. That’s what always stood out to me.
“After watching him play college football, watching film and being with him this spring — he’s a very instinctual player and has a natural feel for passing the ball.”
Tagovailoa has gotten more familiar with Sarkisian and likes the direction the offense is headed and is trying to keep it simple.
“I’m just taking what the defense gives me now,” Tagovailoa said. “If they are going to give me the first read, I’m not going to pass it up. You can never go broke taking a profit.”
It helps to have an arsenal of receivers to help with making reads. With junior trio Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and DeVonta Smith on the field, as well as sophomore sensation Jaylen Waddle, it’s going to be hard for one of them not to be open.
“If defenses play man against these guys we will have to go out and torch some defenses,” Tagovailoa said. “If they are going to play zone it opens up a lot of the run game. When they do step up in the box then that’s the time for RPOs and play action.”
Reach Edwin Stanton at email@example.com, 205-722-0226 or via Twitter, @edwinstantonu2