College football fans, meet Alabama quarterback Mac Jones.
Some fans will already be familiar with Jones, who replaced Tua Tagovailoa last season when the Heisman Trophy finalist suffered a hip injury. With Tagovailoa now playing in Miami, Jones is the new, full-time starting quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide.
This is why people really need to hone in on Jones. If all goes well this fall, he could position himself for a draft rise the way Joe Burrow did at LSU.
Mac Jones played well last season
The idea of a quarterback sitting multiple years behind an established starter until they leave for the NFL is a seemingly forgotten trend in college football.
Coaches being more prone to starting freshmen, coupled with the transfer portal, makes cases like Mac Jones’s an anomaly rather than the standard.
Jones redshirted as a true freshman in 2017 and, in reserve duty a year later, completed five of his 13 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown.
After opening last season as the No. 2 backup behind Tua Tagovailoa, Jones got his chance after Tagovailoa suffered a season-ending hip injury in November.
Jones completed 68.4% of his passes for yards, 10 touchdowns, and only two interceptions in Alabama’s final three games. Unfortunately for Alabama, an Iron Bowl loss ensured they wouldn’t make the College Football Playoff for the first time in CFP history.
Jones ended the 2019 season having completed 68.8% of his passes for 1,503 yards, 14 touchdowns, and three interceptions.
Jones is Alabama’s full-time starting QB
In a strange offseason where COVID-19 limited a true quarterback competition, Mac Jones nonetheless emerged victoriously.
Jones beat out two freshmen, Bryce Young and Paul Tyson, for the job. Tyson, the great-grandson of Alabama coaching legend Bear Bryant, is a redshirt freshman who didn’t see the field last year.
According to ESPN, Alabama head coach Nick Saban offered impressive praise for Jones.
“Mac has had a really good camp. Really played well in the last scrimmage. Did a good job of taking the leadership role. I think he’s playing with a lot of confidence.”
Alabama opens its season on Saturday, Sept. 26, against Missouri.
Mac Jones could have a Joe Burrow-like rise
Right now, Mac Jones is projected as a late-round draft pick — and even that is no guarantee, especially with a strange college football season and pre-draft process ahead.
But, the SEC is familiar with projected late-round quarterbacks jumping to the first round. Could Jones pull off a similar rise to the one that Joe Burrow had last year at LSU?
Asking Jones to pass Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence for the right to be the No. 1 overall pick is admittedly a bit much. Still, it’s not impossible to think Jones can parlay a strong redshirt junior season into the first four rounds.
Jones plays for one of college football’s premier programs. That same program is hoping to return to the College Football Playoff, so long as one happens.
One reason for optimism about Jones starting in Alabama? According to ESPN, only one quarterback had a higher QBR from Oct. 25 through the rest of the season than Jones’ 92.7 QBR last year.
That quarterback? Joe Burrow, who ended the year with a Heisman Trophy and national championship.