Stuart McNair

Freshman Jalen Hurts coming off first start at quarterback for Alabama

Jalen Hurts expected to make first road start for Alabama at Ole Miss

It would seem the quarterback issue has been settled at Alabama. After all, true freshman Jalen Hurts ignited the Bama offense in a season-opening victory over Southern Cal – Hurts had two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in the 52-6 win over USC – and he was the starter and played most of the game in last week’s 38-10 win over Western Kentucky.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban didn’t wait for a question from reporters in Monday’s press briefing. He addressed the quarterback situation in his opening comments. Saban said, “We're going to continue to work with the quarterbacks that we have, rep the quarterbacks that we have, and try to get them better.

“Jalen Hurts obviously played the most in the (WKU) game. There're things that he could do better. There're some things that he did very well.

"Some was good and some were things that he'll learn from. I think that's the big thing that we need to stay focused on as coaches is that we can use every one of these opportunities that he has to increase his knowledge and experience and be more confident in what he needs to do to improve. I think that's the focus that we have right now and that's certainly what we want to do with the things he did well. We want to correct the things that he needs a little better understanding of and we're just going to keep building on that.

“The emphasis, no matter who's playing, is, ‘Let's get the better things more consistent. Let's try to eliminate some of the other things through better knowledge and experience so that we can [have] better execution.’ I think something that is important to the entire offensive team is that if we all do what we're supposed to do better, that's going to take a lot of pressure off of whoever's playing quarterback. I think that's the more significant issue or us right now in terms of how we improve on offense.”

Hurts, a true freshman, has completed 29 of 47 passes for 405 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. He also has run 20 times for 51 yards and two touchdowns.

Alabama – presumably with Hurts at quarterback – will face off against the Southeastern Conference’s top quarterback when Bama goes to Oxford to play against Ole Miss and Chad Kelly. Kickoff Saturday is at 2:30 p.m. CDT with CBS televising the game. Alabama is 2-0 and ranked first in the nation. Ole Miss is 1-1 and ranked 17th.

Without acknowledging that Hurts will start against the Rebels, Saban agreed that the first road test for a new quarterback is a challenge. Of course, it would also be the case if first-game starter Blake Barnett got the call. Barnett, a redshirt freshman, has completed 7-14 for 164 yards and 1 touchdown and has not been intercepted.

"I don't think there's any question about that it's a challenge,” Saban said. “It's always a challenge to play on the road. We do everything we can to help these guys with noise and all the things that make it more difficult to communicate on offense. I think it's going to be about the entire offensive team sort of being able to do this around the quarterback. So it definitely is something that we will practice this week and we have to get ready for. I don't think it's something we can't overcome and do well, but it is definitely something that we have to work on."

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