Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban told ESPN on Friday that Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa will compete for the starting quarterback job during the spring, and he did not rule out the possibility of both playing next season.
"The most important thing is to play the best guy, and if both guys can play winning football, it's not out of the question that we'll find a role for both guys in fairness to both guys," Saban told ESPN's Chris Low on Friday, two weeks before the start of spring practice.
"I don't know that there's any more to it than that."
It has been assumed that Tagovailoa would be the starting quarterback next season based on his performance in the national championship game.
Tagovailoa, a true freshman, came off the bench to help Alabama overcome a 13-0 halftime deficit and defeat Georgia 26-23 in overtime to win the Crimson Tide's fifth national championship in the last nine years.
Hurts, a sophomore, has started 29 games in two seasons and was 26-2 as Alabama's starter before the national title game. He started that game but completed only 3 of 8 passes for 21 yards in the first half before being replaced.
This week, East Carolina graduate transfer Gardner Minshew committed to Alabama and plans to use his final year of eligibility in the 2018 season.
That led to suspicions that Saban expects Hurts to transfer.
But Saban told ESPN he met with both quarterbacks and told them that no decision has been made regarding the quarterback position heading into spring.
"All I've told both players is that they're both going to have the opportunity to compete, and that's all any competitor ever wants," Saban said. "We've won with both, and the kids on our team respect both guys."
Saban said he told Hurts after the national championship game that he would remain a vital part of the Crimson Tide football program.
"I told him, 'We would have never gotten here without you, and even though it wasn't your time [against Georgia] and we needed Tua to give us a spark, that should not be anything but a learning experience for you in terms of what you have to do to be a more consistent player in the future,'" Saban said.
The Crimson Tide will have a new play-caller in 2018, Mike Locksley, as well as a new quarterbacks coach, Dan Enos.