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Jalen Hurts took Bama to the brink of a title as a true freshman. Now he’s even better.

Reintroducing the Tide’s star QB, in about two minutes.

Mercer v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Jalen Hurts has been Alabama’s starting quarterback for just less than two seasons. The true sophomore is 25-1 and can win the SEC West for the second time in two tries by beating Auburn in the Iron Bowl on Saturday.

Hurts was brilliant as a freshman, and he came within a few seconds of beating Clemson for a national title. He’s even better now. A quick rundown:

In 2016, Hurts was good at pretty much everything.

He wasn’t the most polished passer in the world, and that hurt him in the national title game, when Bama weirdly decided to lean on his arm after a strong running first half. But one narrative has long been that he’s a run-first QB and not much as a passer.

That’s not close to true. Hurts was fifth among qualified freshmen in passer rating (139.1), sixth in yards per throw (7.3), and fourth in completion percentage (62.8). Hurts’ passing numbers alone painted the picture of a well above-average QB, something like a top-40 passer.

Appraising Hurts as pass-first or run-first is silly, because Alabama’s spread offense emphasized run/pass options. Yet Hurts threw 382 passes and recorded 172 rushes, sacks not included.

On those runs, Hurts averaged 6.2 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. He fumbled 11 times, which was the only truly bad thing on his line.

In 2017, Hurts is better at pretty much everything.

He’s thrived under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who replaced Steve Sarkisian after Sarkisian replaced the FAU-bound Lane Kiffin for the title game.

Daboll’s schematics are a little more pro-style than Kiffin’s were, but the same spread principles that Hurts used as a freshman still work. He still reads defenders and decides whether a play’s a run or a pass (and who gets the ball), but he does a little more straight drop-back passing than he did last year.

Hurts is running a little less than he did last year (11 times per game, not 13), but he’s averaging an improved 5.8 yards. He’s also throwing slightly less, as Bama has geared its running game more toward a three-headed monster of blue-chip backs: Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough, and freshman Najee Harris.

Hurts the passer has been elite. His rating’s up to 160 on the strength of a sparkling 14-to-1 touchdowns-to-interception ratio. His completion rate’s gone down a percentage point to 61.5, but I’ll bet that’s because he’s thrown far more challenging passes. Hurts gets 9.1 yards per throw, almost 2 yards better than when he was a freshman.

He’s a complete QB. He’s also a really cool guy.

I’ll leave you with this video of Hurts surprising a fan at an autism center last spring.