SAN JOSE, Calif. — Alabama and Clemson reached the College Football Playoff Championship game on Tuesday night despite two of the most high-profile controversies in the country.
Tide quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts, along with Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence explained to DawgNation how they handled the situation at their school during Saturday’s CFP Media Day at the SAP Center.
“You come into the quarterback room or you come into Alabama knowing that you’ve got to compete every time,” Tagovailoa said. “I’m a competitor, he’s a competitor.
“You’ve got to go in with the mindset that everyone’s competitors, but at the end of the day, we can all be friends.”
Hurts, who lost the starting job to Tagovailoa after last year’s CFP Championship Game win over Georgia, said he focuses on his game more so than competing for the position.
“For me I want to be the best version of myself I can be, I want to get better every day,” Hurts said. “If I’m not improving myself, I feel like I’m failing myself, it’s down to me to push myself and get better every day and that’s something that I can control, so I was raised to control what I can control.”
Hurts thoughts were very similar to those of Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm, who had to look over his shoulder all season not knowing when talented freshman Justin Fields might be put into the game to get some snaps.
Fromm didn’t allow it to break his rhythm, however, as he finished the season ranked No. 3 in the nation in pass efficiency.
“I think the biggest thing is control what you can control,” Fromm said in the days leading up to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. “You can’t worry about things you can’t control.”
Fields announced his transfer to Ohio State last week, ending what had grown into yet another high-profile competition.
And, Hurts said, you can’t assume all quarterback situations are the same or similar.
“‘There’s different strokes for different folks,” Hurts said. “Some situations that seem similar may not be similar, people don’t know what they don’t know.”
Lawrence, who wrestled the starting job at Clemson away from incumbent Kelly Bryant, said all he knows is to do what is best for the team.
“I think the biggest thing is jus keeping the team first, (and) I think all the quarterbacks here at Clemson since I’ve been here have done that,” said Lawrence, who on Monday was named the first winner of the Shaun Alexander Freshman of the Year Award.
“You come here to play with the team and win championships and do all those things, it’s not an individual game, so I think that’s the biggest thing when you go into situations like this,” he said. “That’s all I really have to say about that, is just don’t put yourself above the team.”
Tagovailoa, who admitted he was considering transferring his freshman season before his breakthrough, credits Hurts for how he has handled his role.
“I think (as a backup) you always go into a game with the mindset that, ‘when it’s my opportunity, I’ve got to be prepared,’ ” Tagovailoa said. “For me, Jalen’s got a good amount of experience, so I wouldn’t say Jalen’s a backup.
“I mean, he could be starting on any other team in my opinion. I think he’s handled everything pretty professional, if you asked me.”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Fields did the same with the Bulldogs before leaving for the Buckeyes.
“He competed his tail off throughout the year and played a team role throughout the year,” Smart said leading up to the Sugar Bowl, after it had been learned Fields was exploring a transfer. “I can’t be annoyed, the kid is doing what he thinks is best for him,”