Jalen Hurts will be back in college football’s national championship.
We know this because of Alabama’s perennially ridiculous roster of talented players around him. But Hurts showed the world Monday night that he possesses all the talent to win a national championship. The true freshman was just four points away from a national championship. As a rookie he couldn’t get it done, but to think he won’t be as motivated as ever to crush his competition over the next two to three seasons would be insanity.
Hurts didn’t play too well against Clemson, while Clemson’s defense played really, really well. Hurts completed 13 of 31 pass attempts for 131 yards and a touchdown. No picks. He also rushed for 63 yards and a score. More than half of his entire passing yardage came on a single play — the 68-yard touchdown throw he delivered in the third quarter to tight end O.J. Howard, who was streaking unguarded because of a busted coverage.
The Tide’s offense couldn’t produce when it most mattered. Per AL.com’s Rainer Sabin, “only one of Alabama’s 17 possessions lasted more than three minutes. Hurts’ spotty play, Clemson’s ability to close off the perimeter and the injury that knocked Bo Scarbrough out of the game in the third quarter conspired to suppress the offense.”
But according to tight end OJ Howard, “he stayed composed” despite the fact “everything wasn’t going his way.”
“I thought we moved the ball well for parts of the game and other parts we didn’t,” running back Damien Harris told Sabin. “They had a good defense. They made plays on defense. We didn’t make plays on offense. Thats what led to the score of the game.”
Along comes Alabama’s sure-fire first-round NFL draft pick, defensive end Tim Williams. As Hurts was getting scrummed by reporters, he said “I love you, Jalen, You’re the future. Real talk. Real talk”
As Hurts spoke to reporters, he stood there with the face of a leader. Composed, not ashamed and accepting of loss.
Williams was speaking the truth. Hurts will likely be back with a freakish vengeance and we’ll all be there as his witnesses. He won’t let another opportunity like that slip away.
Jalen Hurts is responsible for 36 TDs this season, the most in a single year in Alabama school history. pic.twitter.com/BG29Nmjgot
— ESPN (@espn) January 10, 2017
I 👀 You too 2! @JalenHurts
— Dak Prescott (@dak) January 10, 2017
This season Hurts tossed for 2,780 yards, 23 TDs and 9 INTs. He also rushed for 954 yards and added 13 TDs. In total, 36 times to the endzone for the freshman from Channelview, Texas.
Hero Sports’ Sean Labar made the case that Hurts was the best freshman quarterback ever in college football history. Sure, it’s a stretch, but why not consider it?
Per Labar, Hurts “shattered expectations” this year. And for a quarterback at Alabama, that’s saying something.
“There’s a very solid case to be made that Hurts is the best quarterback Saban has ever had at Alabama. Only John Parker Wilson accounted for a higher percentage of the Tide’s offensive touchdowns in a season. He was responsible for 23 of Alabama’s 38 touchdowns in Saban’s first season, but also threw 12 interceptions and led the Tide to a 7-5 record.
Hurts was also responsible for a higher proportion of Alabama’s total yards than any Saban player outside of Blake Simms in 2014 and Parker Wilson in 2007. His 12 rushing touchdowns tied him with Mark Ingram (2008) and TJ Yeldon (2012) for seventh most by any player in Saban’s 10 years.”
247 Sports’ Chris Hummer argued that while Hurts couldn’t win his team a natty this time around, Nick Saban’s investment into the freshman will pay off down the road.
Hummer wrote that “Hurts will likely play three more seasons in Tuscaloosa and will only improve as a passer. If you thought Alabama was dangerous in the past, wait until it has a Manziel of its own. With Hurts’ unmatched drive and work ethic – he’s a human embodiment of Saban’s process – that future doesn’t seem too far away.
Saban plays chess while the rest of the college football world dabbles in checkers.”
Fansided’s Cody Williams offered a legitimate cautionary note as to how Bama’s offense will play under Hurts next season with new offensive guru Steve Sarkisian. It’s no longer Lane Kiffin and his brand of running the ball, relentlessly.
“We’re not fortune-tellers, but it’s first going to be interesting to see how the switch from Lane Kiffin to Sarkisian affects Hurts’ effectiveness. Kiffin’s willingness to run the ball until there was no tread left on the tires opened up a great deal of the offense for Hurts this season. And with Bo Scarbrough returning and super-freshman Najee Harris making his way to Tuscaloosa, Sarkisian could do that again as well. However, there is going to be at least some shift in approach, one that puts more reliance on Hurts’ ability as a passer if the title game is any indication.”
At the same time, Williams concluded his piece by pointing out the obvious: the kid was two minutes away from winning it all, and cementing his status as a college football king. Maybe it’ll have to wait till next year for Hurts. When it does, man, it’ll be scary.
“In the broad scope of Alabama football, Hurts largely stands as an anomaly. The Crimson Tide aren’t the team that lets freshman get under center. Bama isn’t the team known for having the highly mobile and elusive quarterback. Yet Hurts was both of those things and, had the defense held for two minutes, he would’ve led them to a National Championship victory.”
(Photo: GETTY IMAGES)