Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is expected to start for the Tide in the Orange Bowl semifinal against Oklahoma. Whether or not he is 100 percent though, remains to be seen.
Tua suffered a high ankle sprain on Dec. 1 during Alabama’s SEC Championship against Georgia. He underwent surgery shortly after, but as of three days before kickoff vs. the Sooners, he told reporters that the ankle was closer to 85 percent better than 100:
Tua Tagovailoa with a personal injury update: pic.twitter.com/s0hmbPxq7r— Terrin Waack (@terrinvictoria) December 26, 2018
So how did Tua hurt his ankle, exactly?
Early in the fourth quarter of Dec. 1’s SEC Championship, as Tagovailoa was making a throw, offensive lineman Jonah Williams backed into him and stepped on his right ankle.
But this wasn’t the only injury he dealt with this game — he had an apparent left ankle injury earlier in the SEC title game. On a couple of occasions, he walked with a visible limp, and even went into the injury tent at one point, but he didn’t miss any snaps before suffering the sprain. After he threw an interception to Georgia’s Richard LeCounte, he limped off:
Backup Jalen Hurts, the Tide’s former starting QB, came in and pulled off the comeback win over Georgia, completing a perfect Hollywood story.
In addition to those two ankle injuries, Tua’s legs have been banged up for much of the season.
Tua was visibly shaken up after taking a hard hit in Week 1 against Louisville. He came back in the next series though, and finished with 229 yards and two touchdowns.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban told reporters leading up to a home game against Missouri that Tua had been dealing with a sprained knee.
“He did put a brace on it just to kind of protect him,” Saban told reporters. “But he’s been able to do all of the work in practice, so that’s not an issue.”
Three days later on game day, Tua suffered what looked like a re-aggravation of the right knee injury after he slid. He jogged off the field and entered the medical tent.
Tua leaves the tent. pic.twitter.com/yraVHTnAj0— Michael Casagrande (@ByCasagrande) October 14, 2018
The Tide were up 30-10 at the time, so Hurts entered and finished the 29-point victory.
Against Tennessee, Tua looked to have tweaked his knee again after he was slow to get up following a TD pass.
*checks watch*— SI College Football (@si_ncaafb) October 20, 2018
yep, it's about time for another Alabama touchdown pic.twitter.com/D6kETH4TBJ
Hurts once again came in and finished the game, and the Tide won 58-21.
Alabama had a bye to prepare for LSU, which gave Tua some more time to get healthy. He battled his knee injury throughout, leaving for a play in the first quarter, and was shaken up after throwing a TD pass in the third:
Tua makes a house call, but comes up limping at the end of it. pic.twitter.com/QjcIXBdB5y— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 4, 2018
He finished the game though, and had three total touchdowns on the night.
Against Mississippi State, Tua left after taking a big hit:
Tua limped off the field and into the injury tent after this hit. pic.twitter.com/KUEp5QUEdv— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) November 10, 2018
Mac Jones came in at quarterback. Hurts was dealing with an ankle injury. Hurts was seen with his helmet on, but never went in, and Tua didn’t return.
The December surgery Tua underwent to repair his ankle required a two-week recovery time.
Bama hasn’t come out and specifically said what Tua had done to his ankle in surgery, but one of the team’s doctors has discussed a device used to repair torn ligaments in the past:
Alabama team doctor Norman Waldrop has been an outspoken advocate of the TightRope in previous interviews and speeches. In a 2017 interview posted on YouTube, Waldrop said it requires as two-inch incision and can have players walking by the fourth or fifth day after the operation. They can run by Day 8 or 9 and cutting whenever it’s comfortable enough to do so.
“We call it a stitch job,” said Alabama left tackle Jonah Williams who had the procedure in January after a high-ankle sprain in the CFP title game. “Just throw some wires in there, and you know.”
Two weeks after he underwent surgery, Tua was back practicing:
.@AlabamaFTBL first day of bowl practice and Tua Tagovailoa is running around. @Tuaamann has been telling us all along he's taking advantage of every second possible to rehab from his ankle surgery- Video shot by CBS 42's @RonGSports pic.twitter.com/O90kxnJwLH— Chris Breece (@ChrisBreece) December 14, 2018