Stuart McNair

Alabama practice includes quarterbacks running the gauntlet

If Alabama’s Jalen Hurts is going to run, ball security is important

Remember Jalen Hurts’s first play as an Alabama quarterback? It came when he was inserted into the game as a backup to Blake Barnett in the Crimson Tide’s season-opening game against Southern Cal.
Hurts would spur Alabama to a 52-6 win over USC in Dallas and win the job as the Tide’s starting quarterback, leading Bama to the Southeastern Conference championship and earning SEC Offensive Player of the Year.
But that first play was, to invoke the memory of Keith Jackson:
Overall, Hurts was very good with the football. He suffered another memorable fumble when he was blindsided at Ole Miss, but considering that he had 191 carries last season – more than any tailback – the record was good.
Alabama Coach Nick Saban wants Hurts concentrating on the passing game as the Crimson Tide proceeds through spring practice. Bama will have its first scrimmage (closed to the public) at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday and will conclude spring drills with the A-Day Game (free admission to the public) on April 22.
Saban said that Hurts’s ability to run the football, notably out of scrambles, is not going to go away, but that as Hurts gets more experience he should be able to eliminate some of those runs, which put the quarterback at risk.
So how does Alabama practice prepare the quarterback for full speed contact that will come in games?
An aspect of practice at all times of the year for Alabama football is a drill in which defenders are trained in tackle and strip (the turnover aspect) and offensive players are drilled in ball security – holding onto the football. Running backs go through the gauntlet of defenders with a ball in each hand and arm.
Hurts and freshman quarterbacks Tua Togavailoa and Mac Jones are also a part of this drill.
Saban said “If the quarterback is going to run the ball, we put him in turnover drills. In a controlled situation, they are getting hit and the ball is getting stripped.
“If we’re going to run the quarterback, ball security has got to be an important thing for them.”
But that’s about the only contact quarterbacks get in practice.
“I don’t think it’s worth getting a guy hurt in practice trying to prove the point that we’re going to make them a little tougher, especially at the quarterback position,” Saban said. “We try to do it with some controlled drills so that they do get hit. We really have limited the quarterback runs in the spring and are really focused on trying to develop a better passing game.”

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