TUSCALOOSA — For the third straight week, all eyes are on Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and his still-recovering right ankle.

Not that much has changed in that department.

No. 2 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) remains in a bit of a holding pattern regarding the availability of its Heisman Trophy-contending gunslinger ahead of the biggest game of the season — a potential 1-versus-2 showdown against No. 1 LSU (8-0, 5-0 SEC) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS.

“If he can play in the game it’ll be a game-time decision,” head coach Nick Saban said Monday, echoing the same talking point he’s had regarding Tagovailoa for the last week. “He did practice two days last week. We’ll see where he’s at today and then we’ll manage the reps accordingly.”

Despite returning to practice Wednesday and Thursday during Alabama’s bye week, Tagovailoa remained fairly limited in what he was able to do, throwing only against air and not participating in any team-oriented activities against his own defense.

“He looked good for what he did, the coaches kind of held him to a limited standpoint, and he knows himself (better) than anybody, so we’ll see what comes this week,” junior right tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. said of Tagovailoa on Monday.

Added junior receiver Jerry Jeudy: “He looked pretty good, he was out there and felt comfortable. He did everything he needed to do. It’s just a day-by-day (process) to see how it goes.”

Still, the always-smiling Hawaiian southpaw hasn’t allowed his limitations to bring down his usual up-beat attitude, even as he continues to go through an arduous “rapid” rehabilitation process meant to expedite his return to the field.

“He’s always been super positive, so even with his injury he’s been positive,” Wills said of Tagovailoa. “He goes in there, gets his rehab, gets his treatment in, and then comes out to practice. And no matter if he’s participating or not, or in the game or not like (against Arkansas), he just comes out with the same energy, from a positive standpoint, and keeps everybody uplifted.”

Whether or not he plays Saturday will ultimately be determined by how much improvement Tagovailoa can make practice to practice this week, with his expected on-field reps dependent on how he responds to the previous day’s workload.

“When I say that, we cannot predict ... if he goes out there today and looks good, then his rep count is going to go up and we’re going to prepare his as if he’ll have an opportunity to play in the game,” Saban said. “If he has a setback during the week, you can’t really control that, but that would change the plan.”

Saban added both the starter and backup quarterbacks, in this case sophomore Mac Jones, trade practice reps fairly evenly through the first three practices of the week anyways, so whether Tagovailoa is fully cleared to return to active duty shouldn’t have any effect on how passes are split up the first couple of days of the week.

“The way we practice Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, both quarterbacks (Tagovailoa and Jones) are going to get pretty much the same (number of) reps,” Saban said, “and that’s probably how we’ll manage it this week in terms of preparation.”

Tagovailoa returned to practice last Wednesday, exactly 10 days after undergoing a state-of-the-art tightrope ankle surgery on Oct. 20, though he was severely limited according to Saban. If he were to take the field Saturday against LSU, it would be 20 days post-surgery, one of the quickest turnarounds following the tightrope procedure ever for a skill player.

And while there is a general confidence and expectation that Tagovailoa should be available in some capacity against LSU, his approach hasn’t changed much throughout this endeavor and his teammates certainly seem to appreciate it.

“He’s a leader on the team, people look up to him, players look up to him, coaches turn and see where he’s at and what he’s going to say before a drive to get that thing going,” Wills said, “so no matter whether he’s in or out, he still has the same outlook on what’s going to happen.”

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