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FRISCO, Texas — Walking into the Star, quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa knew he was going to be targeted.
As the little brother of the man most responsible for leading the Alabama Crimson Tide to a come-from-behind victory in the 2018 national title game, Tagovailoa was a name and a face many of the best high school football players in the country put a checkmark next to when they arrived.
“You know who he is,” cornerback Jaden Davis said. “And you definitely know who his brother is.”
His brother, Tua Tagovailoa, passed for 166 yards and three touchdowns with a pick in one half of football against a Georgia defense that was one of the best in the country. Tua effectively benched quarterback Jalen Hurts and incited a quarterback controversy inside of a program where both men have now led Alabama to a national championship.
Taulia watched all of this unfold as the 2019 quarterback commit at Thompson High School in Alabaster, Ala., where he also made a name for himself. As a junior, he passed for 3,820 yards with 36 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
The arm is legit. In The Opening Final long toss competition, Tagovailoa threw a football 66 yards before the ball hit turf. On the field during 7-on-7 play, though, he struggled.
“It was kind of tough in the beginning,” he said. “Once our team started getting together we looked pretty good.”
The pace of the game was faster than almost all the players at The Opening Final had seen in high school because of three simple facts: Everyone is fast. Everyone is athletic. Everyone can play.
Taulia completed just 71 of the 109 passes over the course of the week. During the team period, he threw as many touchdowns as interceptions (six).
In 7-on-7 play, if a quarterback held the ball for more than 3.5 seconds, the play was called a sack for the defense.
Indecision was as much the culprit as outstanding coverage when Tagovailoa was his squad’s field general. That’s a part of his game that is likely to improve as he goes through his final season of high school football and jumps into the college ranks.
However, it’s not inconceivable to think he’ll never play with a more talented group of wide receivers.
At any time, Tagovailoa had five-star wide out Garrett Wilson, four-star wide out Trey Palmer, four-star wide out Marquez Beason and five-star running back Trey Sanders to throw passes to.
“I feel like I have the best wide receiver crew over here,” he said.
So, no, talent wasn’t the issue. And it likely won’t be if and when he arrives at Alabama either.
“We’re just trying to get our timing and our rhythm down, and I think we’ll be straight,” Tagovailoa said. “It’s just a matter of us doing our job and executing it well.
Easy to say. Hard to perform.