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The Saban Top 100: No. 17 Jalen Hurts

The Saban Top 100: No. 17 Jalen Hurts

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The Saban Top 100: No. 17 Jalen Hurts

BamaCentral is ranking the top 100 players of the Nick Saban era at Alabama over the course of the 2020 football season

17] Jalen Hurts, QB

  • 2016 SEC Offensive Player of the Year
  • 2016 All-SEC
  • Selected in the second round of the 2020 Draft
  • Played final season at Oklahoma (finished second for 2019 Heisman Trophy)
  • First freshman quarterback to start under Nick Saban
  • Finished fourth all-time at Alabama in winning percentage at 92.9 percent (26-2)
  • Owned the all-time record for rushing touchdowns by an Alabama quarterback with 23 through his 42 career games
  • Ranked second in career rushing by a quarterback with 1,976 yards and finished second in program history touchdown responsibility with 71
  • Accumulated 7,617 yards of total offense, third in Alabama history. Totaled 48 career touchdown passes, third most all-time

It’s hard to say who was more impressive.

On the one hand, there’s what sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had done on the field in 2018. By the end of October he was leading the nation in passer efficiency and on pace to set a new NCAA record in the category it uses to determine the annual passing champion.

Meanwhile, there’s how junior Jalen Hurts handled things. A lot of players in a similar situation would have been negative influence in the locker room after being replaced in the National Championship Game, or left and gone elsewhere with two years of eligibility remaining.

Instead, they’re being called the two best quarterbacks in the Southeastern Conference even though they’re on the same team.

“I've always said how much respect I have for both the guys,” Nick Saban said. “How you handle things when you're in a difficult situation I think speaks volumes of who you are.”

Even though Alabama didn’t win the national championship, it will always be remembered for its quarterbacks. The Crimson Tide had traditionally been known as run-first and strong-defense team, one that was both physical and intimidating while suffocating opponents.

That changed that season.

With Tagovailoa taking over it became an extremely diverse offense that was even more deadly in the air. Alabama was shattering school records left and right, and at times seemed nearly unstoppable. For example, of the first 61 possessions Alabama had with him at quarterback it scored 41 touchdowns and five field goals (74.2 percent). He was averaging a touchdown pass every 6.1 attempts, or 6.4 for his career.

“We're trying to be alpha-dogs on offense,” tight Hale Hentges said. “That's something that we want people here to say, 'Wow, Alabama is known for their offense.'”

With the overall production off the charts by Alabama’s standards, the Crimson Tide finished October leading the nation in offensive scoring and was second in total offense by averaging 564.3 yards per game.

There was depth at all of the skill positions and Alabama went a strong two-deep on the offensive line. It helped lead to a fun atmosphere on the sideline, but there’s no secret about which position was the one to make the offense go.

“Those two push each other to go harder,” cornerback Trevon Diggs said. “He’s grown a lot. I see a lot of improvement from him.”

Diggs was talking about Hurts with the latter part of that comment, who was the SEC Offensive Player of the Year in 2016, and while notching 26 wins as starter led Alabama to title games. His passer rating rose so much that he was second behind Tagovailoa in the SEC. Had he enough attempts to qualify nationally Hurts would have been third.

Yet the two 20-year-olds remained tight.

That may have been less in doubt than ever on the Monday after Saban announced Tagovailoa was Alabama’s starter. For the flex period during practice, Hurts had always led the position group as the veteran member. This time he tried to defer.

“You got it, it’s your team,” Tagovailoa said Hurts told him. “I said no.

“To have someone like Jalen stick with it, knowing that I’d been the starter for two years and to have someone come in front of me now ... the kind of character that he has, and the kind of maturity that he’s shown throughout the year within our team, I think that’s something special.”

Tagovailoa later admitted that he never envisioned a scenario in which he was the starter and Hurts was behind him on the depth chart.

"Could you tell me that I was going to be the starter with Jalen being here?" Tagovailoa said. "You wouldn't know. Exactly. I never knew, too. I couldn't even tell you that. But that's kind of a hard situation to be in. I couldn't even tell you that answer."

To call it a unique situation as Saban did doesn’t do it justice. Yet somehow, someway, it worked.

They both played.

They were both successful.

They both became better quarterbacks.

“Jalen has certainly improved in the pocket,” Saban said. “There's no doubt about that. There's never been any question about his arm talent. It's always been making decisions, choices, second reads, that type of things, which I think he's really made a lot of improvement on.

“When he's done those things, he's had really good success. And I think consistency in continuing to do those things is the key to him in the future.”

It’s just that Tua …

Even Saban said that the quarterback exceeded his expectations, to which Tagovailoa told reporters that he must have been joking with them.

Read More

He wasn’t. But it helps explain the context to what happened near the end of the 2018 season, when a battered Tagovailoa wasn’t able to continue in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia due to ankle injuries and Saban had to call on Hurts down 28-21 with roughly 11 minutes to go.

Eleven months after he had been pulled from the national title game (against the same team, and in the same location, Atlanta) Hurts threw for one touchdown and ran for another, to lead No. 1 Alabama to a 35-28 comeback victory over the No. 4 Bulldogs.

"I've probably never been more proud of a player than Jalen," Saban said.

The Saban Top 100 will be revealed over the course of the 2020 football season, with the top players unveiled one a day as part of BamaCentral's 25 Days of Christmas celebration.

The series thus far:

Introduction

No. 18: Reuben Foster

No. 19: Chance Warmack

No. 20: Mark Barron

No. 21: Jonah Williams

No. 22: Da'Ron Payne

No. 23: Ryan Kelly

No. 24: Landon Collins

No. 25: Cam Robinson

26-30: Terrence Cody, Calvin Ridley, Javier Arenas, Reggie Ragland, Jedrick Wills Jr.

31-35: Dee Milliner, D.J. Fluker, Marlon Humphrey, Rashad Evans, A'Shawn Robinson

36-40: Rashaan Evans, Dre Kirkpatrick, Marcell Dareus, Eddie Jackson, O.J. Howard

41-45: Courtney Upshaw, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Henry Ruggs III, Jarran Reed, Xavier McKinney

46-50: Dalvin Tomlinson, Antoine Caldwell, Kareem Jackson, Cyrus Kouandjio, Trevon Diggs

51-55: Mike Johnson, T.J. Yeldon, Ronnie Harrison, Damien Harris, JK Scott

56-60: Ross Pierschbacher, Eddie Lacy, Bradley Bozeman, Ryan Anderson, Glen Coffee

61-65: Greg McElroy, Josh Jacobs, Anfernee Jennings, James Carpenter, Kenyan Drake

66-70: Terrell Lewis, Blake Sims, Christian Miller, Irv Smith Jr,, Tim Williams

71-75: Mack Wilson, ArDarius Stewart, Deionte Thompson, Raekwon Davis, Jalston Fowler

76-80: Josh Chapman, Cyrus Jones, Kevin Norwood, Isaiah Buggs, Jake Coker

81-85: Bo Scarbrough, Anthony Averett, Leigh Tiffin, Ed Stinson, DeQuan Menzie

86-90: Jesse Williams, Shaun Dion Hamilton, William Vlachos, Da'Shawn Hand, Arie Kouandjio

91-95: Nico Johnson, Wallace Gilberry, DJ Hall, Vinnie Sunseri, Quinton Dial

96-100: Trey DePriest, Damion Square, Christion Jones, John Parker Wilson, Simeon Castille 

17] Jalen Hurts, QB

  • 2016 SEC Offensive Player of the Year
  • 2016 All-SEC
  • Selected in the second round of the 2020 Draft
  • Played final season at Oklahoma (finished second for 2019 Heisman Trophy)
  • First freshman quarterback to start under Nick Saban
  • Finished fourth all-time at Alabama in winning percentage at 92.9 percent (26-2)
  • Owned the all-time record for rushing touchdowns by an Alabama quarterback with 23 through his 42 career games
  • Ranked second in career rushing by a quarterback with 1,976 yards and finished second in program history touchdown responsibility with 71
  • Accumulated 7,617 yards of total offense, third in Alabama history. Totaled 48 career touchdown passes, third most all-time
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