Nick Saban has high expectations for Tua Tagovailoa this season.
Tagovailoa, who completed 69% of his passes and threw for 43 touchdowns as a sophomore, led Alabama to the College Football Playoff National Championship game against Clemson in 2018. But, the Crimson Tide struggled and eventually fell to the Tigers, 44-16.
Tagovailoa was 22-of-34 passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions in the loss.
“I think Tua has to challenge himself a little bit to get back to … I think being hurt was an issue for him at the end of the season,” Saban, the longtime Alabama coach, told reporters at the SEC spring meetings Tuesday (via AL.com). “I think that he has to challenge himself to get back into great shape and overcome some of the things that happened toward the end of the year.
“I think he should take the perception that he has a lot to prove relative to how we ended the season. I think our whole team fits into that category.”
Tagovailoa, who dealt with an ankle injury late last season, finished behind Kyler Murray in second place in the 2018 Heisman voting. He said the team had its “heads down” after the loss to Clemson.
“I think where we kind of started to pick everything up was kind of regrouping for the spring, getting ready as a team for the spring,” Tagovailoa told ESPN last week. “I think the biggest thing for us is finding leadership on our team. We’re, I think, still trying to find that and what not.
“But as far as what we’re trying to do to regroup and rebuild as a team, we’re not trying to worry about what happened last year. We’re just trying to see what we can do to better ourselves and see what we can to do to become successful this year.”
Alabama will open 2019 against Duke in Atlanta on Aug. 31.