Jalen Hurts will not go into Alabama spring football practice as the favorite to win the job of quarterback for the 2016 season. In would be an unreasonable expectation on all manner of levels to expect Hurts, a true freshman who entered The University in January, to become the quarterback of a team coming off a national championship.
There is this, though. Alabama has to have a new starting quarerback in 2016 with Jacob Coker having completed his eligibility. There is also the matter of the experience factor, which isn’t much of a factor. True, Hurts has no Crimson Tide game experience, but that’s the same for redshirt freshman Blake Barnett and third-year sophomore David Cornwell. Junior Cooper Bateman, the back-up to Coker and starter of one game, has only a little more experience.
Still, one can’t help but come back to the unlikelihood of Hurts, who was playing at Channelwood, Texas, High School a few months ago, winning the starting job this year.
That doesn’t mean he can’t be a help to the 2016 Crimson Tide. In fact, he lent a hand in preparation for Bama’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game victory over Clemson by running the Alabama scout team for a few practices before Bama went to Arizona.
Hurts didn’t make the trip to the game, but as he watched the Tide on television fromTuscaloosa, he had to take a little pride in knowing that he had helped prepare his new team for the huge accomplishment.
“It was a great experience,” Hurts said of the four days he spent as a scout team quarterback in the first days of the new year. “It felt good knowing that I was getting after it against the number one defense in the country. It also felt good to know that I helped in preparation for winning the national title, that I had a little something to do with that. It was a great experience.
“I came and practiced with the team, so I guess I was officially a member of the program, so it felt good to be a part of something great like that. I feel I had a part in preparation. I’m not going to sit here and say ‘All glory goes to me.’ That’s definitely not the case. As for having a hand in it, I felt like I put a toe in.”
Hurts, 6-2, 212 pounds, found out in advance that he would get a few days to practice with Alabama, and that he would be playing the role of Clemson’s outstanding quarterback, DeShaun Watson. He said it was “a pleasure” to work on the scout team and that the practices he had against Alabama’s defense made him a better player and accelerrated the acclimation to college football. “I feel it was a blessing,” he said. “It felt good. It was an honor to be here.”
No surprise, Hurts said the speed of the game from high school to Alabama is a big adjustment. “Everybody is that five-star recruit on defense, big time guys,” he said. “Everyone is good at this level, and that’s something I have to adjust to.”
Hurts said the offense at Alabama suits him well. “In high school, we ran the spread, ran the ball, threw the ball, threw it down field some. The offense here is very diverse, kind of based around what the quarterback can do.”
Although senior highlight films of Hurts show him as an outstanding runner as well as passer, he said the runs were based on necessity because of the loss of a running back. He has shown that he can do it all. At Alabama he’s prepared “to do whatever Coach asks me to do.”
As a senior he passed for 2,384 yards and rushed for 1,391 yards and accounted for 51 touchdowns, 26 passing and 25 rushing.
Hurts wasn’t drawn to Tuscaloosa so much for the offense, he said. “It was the school as a whole. The program, what they can do for you off the field as well as on the field. I feel like I can be successful off the field if football doesn’t work out. I honestly felt there wasn’t another place out there that compared. Alabama, I feel, is on another level in many ways that stood out to me.”
Hurts said the current Bama quarterbacks “welcomed me like family, just as you would expect. I’m building a relationship with them. It’s going well.”
He knows he will be in competition with them. “You come to Alabama you have to compete every day in everything you do. Every day here is an evaluation. I have no problem with that. Everything is about competition. You come here, you’re going to do what’s best for the team. That’s being the best player.”
It starts with the winter off-season program. Hurts said, “With the results we have here, you expect it to be tough. I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be getting after it. Everyone will be getting after it. We’ll begin the hunt for (national championship) No. 17. It has already begun.” Hurts was a power lifter in high school, which he believes helps him in conditioning work.
It is no surprise that having Nick Saban as head coach is a draw for players like Hurts, “guys who are about business, guys who know what they want; want to be successful. I felt that he knows the right way as far as becoming a man and being succcessful in life.”
Hurts comes from an athletic family. His brother Averion, is starting quarterback at Texas Southern. He said, “My father was an athlete, my mother is athletic, my sister cheers.
“But we don’t compete against each other. We are there to help each other.”
That’s a trait that could be useful for Alabama in finding a 2016 starting quarterback.