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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," Tide 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, 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.

Still, the always-smiling Hawaiian left-hander 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. "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 are going to get pretty much the same reps," Saban said, "and that's probably how we'll manage it this week in terms of preparation."

Contact Montgomery Advertiser sports reporter Alex Byington at abyington@montgome.gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @_AlexByington.

This article originally ran on annistonstar.com.

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