Jalen Hurts is a true freshman quarterback who still has as many as five games left in his debut season, and he hadn’t even finished his 10th game before he set an Alabama career record:
Jalen Hurts has already set a career record for Alabama under Saban... in 1 season. #SCFacts pic.twitter.com/RGUB91qPbX— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 12, 2016
Jalen Hurts is the first player in @AlabamaFTBL history with 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in the same game.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 12, 2016
This is the simplest evidence yet of the Bama offensive evolution under Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin, which has been going on for about three years. The Tide have gone from being the epitome of pro-style, dropback, game-manager football to three straight years of quarterbacks who can move their feet, with Hurts as the crowning example.
As Ian Boyd explained here a few weeks ago:
Alabama is keeping things simple for him at this stage, in terms of post-snap decisions. Kiffin doesn’t call as much of the traditional dropback stuff, and RPOs are no longer the only way Alabama protects its run game when it’s in the spread. Hurts’ passes are often tunnel screens, play-action rollouts, or simple “check deep, then check down” reads.
There’s clear potential within Hurts in those concepts, but Alabama has configured its offense to allow the freshman to grow without holding the team back.
Saban’s Tide have gotten back to being run-centric, and done it by becoming more wide-open.
After running as few as 35 times a game in 2013 (97th in the country), the Tide are back up to a more Saban-esque 42.6.
And the Tide rank No. 5 in yards per carry and No. 3 in Rushing S&P+ after slipping to No. 46 and No. 20 in those stats last year.
Hurts has a strong arm and has done a good job avoiding interceptions, with just three in 178 attempts.
Hurts isn’t going to become a worse runner, barring injuries, and his strong arm, comfort throwing on the move, and poise are going to make him an increasingly frightening passer.
So, in all likelihood, the Alabama offense will get incrementally better over 2016 and could leap in 2017 or 2018 as the Tide continue to evolve alongside their young QB.
And as Richard Johnson wrote about the Bama run game in general:
In the run game, Alabama used to just maul you with the same zone runs.
The scheme is straightforward in theory. If you’re a lineman and there’s a guy in front of you, block him. If there isn’t, help your fellow lineman immediately to whatever side the play is going. Once that defender is controlled, one of you goes to handle a linebacker.
When they wanted to get fancy, the Tide could hit you with pulling linemen, who run behind one side of the line to the other after the snap.
When things really got wild, they’d run from an unbalanced set. Additional large bodies in the middle of the field counted for exotic in the pre-Kiffin era.
What’s changed is the window dressing to disguise how Alabama goes about its business, and believe me, business is still a-boomin’.
Depending on his development curve and what NFL scouts think over time, the 6’2 Hurts could be at Bama for three and a half more years.