Finally, the biggest offseason story line everybody has been waiting for is happening. Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts has reportedly entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal. The junior has one year of eligibility remaining and after graduating from Alabama in December, he will be able to play wherever he wants immediately.
Hurts unsurprisingly didn’t want to talk about his future plans Monday after Clemson blew out Alabama 44–16 in the national championship game. In that moment, he was focusing on being with his teammates. “We just came short on a national championship,” he said in the locker room. “And it hurts.”
Just because Hurts has taken this step in the transfer process doesn’t mean he will leave Tuscaloosa. He has applied to a sports management graduate program at Alabama. But now, other schools can contact him. Free agency is on.
Hurts went 26–2 as a starter for the Crimson Tide before losing his job to Tua Tagovailoa. Rather than transferring before the 2018 season, Hurts was loyal and stuck with his team. It was a good thing, too, because Alabama needed him to come off the bench for an injured Tagovailoa in the SEC title game and lead the Tide to a comeback win over rival Georgia.
Hurts, who played in the fourth quarter against Clemson, threw for 4,861 yards, 40 touchdowns with 10 interceptions and ran for 1,809 yards and 21 touchdowns in his two years starting.
Now he's expected to draw interest from almost every program in the country without an entrenched starting QB. Leaving Alabama won’t be easy, but here are some places that might also be natural fits.
Oklahoma: This seems like an obvious choice. Oklahoma is used to grooming transfer QBs into Heisman Trophy winners and College Football Playoff contenders after all. All Lincoln Riley needs to do if Hurts is skeptical is have him get on the phone with Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. Hurts may not be as explosive in the downfield passing game like Tagovailoa, or have as quick of a release as Murray, but he’s a running threat who doesn’t make mistakes. Riley is a proven offensive guru who garnered NFL interest. The Sooners have led the country in total offense and offensive efficiency in the two years he’s been head coach. Snagging Hurts—and assuming he beats out former four-star Austin Kendall for the starting job—would essentially guarantee OU to have a lethal scoring offense again next year. It could also mean Hurts ends up competing against Tagovailoa again next season: be it for the Heisman or in the playoff.
TCU: Gary Patterson is in the market for a quarterback after Shawn Robinson left for Missouri. Patterson and offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie have several QBs still on their roster, but they lack experience. TCU would be an intriguing landing spot for Hurts for a few reasons. It’s a chance to move home to Texas for his last season (he’s from the Houston area), and the Horned Frogs return nine offensive starters, including top receiver Jalen Reagor (72 catches for 1,061 yards) and have a balanced attack with seniors Sewo Olonilua and Darius Anderson leading the running game. The Frogs also had the No. 1 defense in the Big 12 this year. Plus, TCU has done well with transfer quarterbacks. Kenny Hill left Texas A&M to finish his career at TCU where he threw for more than 3,000 yards his junior and senior seasons. Maybe this team is just a good quarterback away from contending for a conference title?
Miami: The Hurricanes’ quarterback situation last season was a disaster. And new head coach Manny Diaz recently said that he intends to find a new one to create more competition. Right now the battle will consist of redshirt freshman Jarren Williams and redshirt sophomore N’Kosi Perry, who failed to beat out mediocre starter Malik Rosier last fall. Another wrinkle here is that Diaz is reportedly interested in hiring former Houston head coach Major Applewhite as his offensive coordinator—the two were assistants on Mack Brown’s staff at Texas from 2011–13. Hurts grew up 30 minutes east of the University of Houston and received one of his first scholarship offers from the Cougars. Applewhite, who played quarterback at Texas from 1998–2001, had a top 10 offense at Houston last year. He also coached dual-threat QB D’Eriq King, who threw for 2,982 yards with 36 touchdowns to only six interceptions and ran for 674 yards with 14 scores in 11 games.
UPDATE: Miami announced Friday that it has hired Alabama quarterbacks coach Dan Enos as its new offensive coordinator. Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz was able to lure Enos away from Nick Saban, increasing the buzz that Jalen Hurts will follow him to South Florida. Diaz said in a statement that Enos, who was previously the head coach at Central Michigan, was his “primary target” for the position.
“Dan is one of the most innovative play-callers in college football,” Diaz said. “And he not only has a remarkable track record of coaching quarterbacks, but also developing players for the NFL at numerous positions. His experience as a head coach will also provide invaluable insight to our entire program.”
One of the main reasons Hurts didn’t leave Alabama before last season after losing his starting job was to continue developing and learning under Enos and then Alabama OC Mike Locksley (now the head coach at Maryland). Now he could keep playing for him.
Maryland: Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley spent the last two years with Hurts, but is now returning to Maryland to be its head coach after the program experienced a tumultuous season. Will Hurts follow? The Terrapins have a crowded QB room, but none that would necessarily be a deterrant to a player with the pedigree of the Alabama quarterback. Redshirt junior Tyrrell Pigrome and senior Max Bortenschlager pulled their names from the NCAA transfer portal after speaking with Locksley, according to the Baltimore Sun, while Kasim Hill, who started last year as a redshirt freshman, is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered on Nov. 10 against Indiana. One of the reasons Hurts didn’t transfer before the 2018 season was to continue developing under Locksley and quarterback coach Dan Enos. Choosing Maryland would allow for that teaching to continue.
Louisville: New head coach Scott Satterfield played quarterback and was a former offensive coordinator. His offenses at Appalachian State over the past five years ranked between the top 25 and top 50, which is definitely impressive for a mid-major program. Now at Louisville, which finished at the bottom of the ACC Atlantic Division this year, Satterfield needs an experienced quarterback like Hurts. But does Hurts want to play his final season for a team in rebuilding mode? Probably not.