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Nick Saban, Brent Thompson agree: Alabama star should play against The Citadel

Playoff Championship Georgia Alabama Football

Alabama head coach Nick Saban says he won't hold players out of the game Saturday when the No. 1 Crimson Tide hosts The Citadel. File/AP Photo/David Goldman

Nick Saban has made it clear that he's not interested in how anybody else thinks he should deploy Heisman Trophy candidate Tua Tagovailoa in Saturday's mismatch against The Citadel.

But for the record, Citadel coach Brent Thompson agrees with Saban: The Crimson Tide's sensational quarterback should start against the Bulldogs, despite a balky knee and all that's at stake for the defending national champions in the coming weeks.

"I think he should, just for a little bit of rhythm, start the game with him," Thompson said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. "(Saban) is going to have a feel for what his team needs, and I think he's already stated that.

"If he doesn't play him, that's because he thinks that's what is best for his ball club."

With 10-0 Alabama opening as a 51½-point favorite against The Citadel (4-5), college football nation has been debating whether Tagovailoa should even take a snap against the Bulldogs. The 6-1, 218-pound sophomore from Hawaii has thrown for 28 touchdowns against just two interceptions while hitting 67.9 percent of his passes this season.

"There's no reason to play Tua Tagovailoa vs. The Citadel, despite what Nick Saban says," is a typical headline, this one from

At his own news conference on Monday, Saban showed little patience for such advice.

"We're not going to take the approach, in any game we play, that we are not going to play players and take guys out and play somebody assuming that the opponent we are playing is not capable of being very competitive," Saban said. "That can be your mindset, but that's not my mindset, that's not our mindset, and that's not going to be the mindset of our players.

"And I'm not really interested in any of your suggestions as to how we should manage our team and try to get better, regardless of what you think, just because we are playing The Citadel."

With Tagovailoa hurting and backup Jalen Hurts coming off ankle surgery, The Citadel is likely to see more of Alabama's third-string QB, redshirt freshman Mac Jones, than either Tua or Hurts.

But even with a shot at a sixth national championship at stake, Saban was adamant that he wouldn't limit Tagovailoa's snaps any more than usual.

"No. Why would we do that?" he said. "To say this is not an important game, or he doesn't need to play? I think we need to do a better job of people around him doing what they are supposed to do so that he doesn't get hit.

"(Tua) needs to do a better job of stepping up in the pocket and getting rid of the ball, which he had several opportunities to do (last week). Some of those hits can be avoided by better execution and that's what we need to focus on, not taking a guy out of a game so that he can't improve or do what he needs to do to get better."


• Citadel quarterback Brandon Rainey and safety Aron Spann III were honored as SoCon players of the week after the Bulldogs' 42-27 win over Samford.

Rainey won the offensive award after rushing for 217 yards and a TD, and completing 5 of 7 passes for 88 yards and another score. He is just the third QB in Citadel history to run for more than 200 yards in a game.

Spann had eight tackles, six solo, and forced a fumble as The Citadel defense held Samford to three points in the second half.

• The sports information staffs at The Citadel and Alabama have had some Twitter fun this week:

Reach Jeff Hartsell at 843-937-5596. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC

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