Often in sports, fairytales do exist. A team or player crawls out from under a rock and shocks the world, however, that wasn’t the case for Alabama Crimson Tide football and their freshman QB, Jalen Hurts last season. The Tide was looking to go back-to-back as BCS Champs but fell just short in the BCS Championship game against the Clemson Tigers.
The Tide finished the season 14-1 but it was that lone loss that will either make or break the collegiate career of Hurts. Imagine you’re the starter of a powerhouse program that just won a National Title the year before and famed coach, Nick Saban hands the keys to you. But, the initial whispers were that Hurts didn’t have the arm to lead the Tide to another title. There’s no rule in the NCAA Handbook stating that a QB has to throw or 400 yards a game. That’s not Hurts style and it sat well with Saban.
The Tide has rested their laurels on defense and the 2016-17 season was no different. The defense ended the year ranked 1st in yards and points allowed. With a unit as dominating as they were, Saban didn’t need Hurst to be Patrick Mahomes, he needed him to manage the game. And manage he did.
Hurts passing yardage were average at best with 185 yards per game but he countered those with his other weapon. On the year, Hurst helped lead one of the nation’s top rushing attacks as he counted for 945 yards on the ground. Again, these were not top of the chart stats but this is still coming from an 18-year old kid with the weight of the world on his shoulders.
His freshman year was no disappointment. The Tide lost the Championship game, yes but they also proved that their offense is in great hands going forward.
There could be some tweaks to help his progression this season. The first thing Saban has to do is open up the offense a bit more. Hurts attempted 382 passes which are not bad but think what he and the Tide’s offense could do with more opportunities through the air. His legs are a weapon but how would defenses defend him if they also had to worry about his arm?
I may be asking for a lot here but I watched Hurts play last year and I saw some of the struggles and the limitations applied to his approach. The offense was more of a dink pass, run, run and then let Hurts do something magical if they got into a jam. The Tide can take the same approach with him or they can let the failure he had to endure in the title game push him to be the weapon they need to regain their spot as the best team in the country.
There’s no need to call his freshman year a failure. Hurst did what he was supposed to do, he just fell a little short. Remember, when Saban loses, he hits the drawing board and comes back stronger. I’m sure his QB will do the same.