Alabama has an embarrassment of football riches. There’s no better illustration than the Tide’s quarterback room, where there’s a real possibility that the Tide are going to head into their offseason with a two-time starting Playoff QB (and one-time national champion) as the No. 2 guy on the depth chart. That’s Jalen Hurts’ current reality. The rising junior might not beat out rising sophomore Tua Tagovailoa for Bama’s starting job.
Tagovailoa relieved a struggling Hurts in the second half of the 2017’s national championship game and led a stirring comeback past Georgia. Tagovailoa was injured during spring practice, but he could start in the fall, anyway. On that point, this comment from Hurts’ father Averion to Bleacher Report is an eyebrow-raiser:
“Coach Saban’s job is to do what’s best for his team. I have no problem with that,” Averion Hurts said. “My job is to do what’s best for Jalen — and make no mistake, Jalen is a quarterback, and he wants to play quarterback. He loves Alabama, loves Coach Saban and everything about that place. But he wants to play, and he will play …”
Averion stops mid-sentence because the idea of his son not playing for Alabama isn’t one he takes lightly. What if Jalen doesn’t win the job, he is asked?
He shakes his head slowly, answers begrudgingly. “Well, he’d be the biggest free agent in college football history.”
Saban addressed the story on Thursday evening during availability:
On Hurts transfer story, Saban said he's not going to worry about what someone else wants to write.— Marq Burnett (@Marq_Burnett) April 19, 2018
Said he's going to trust what was said in his meeting with Hurts' dad and what is said during his conversations with Jalen.
He also added that he had a “very positive meeting” with Hurts’ father, per the Associated Press.
I’m not sure Hurts would be the most sought transfer ever. Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, and recent Georgia-to-Washington transfer Jacob Eason all seem pretty high up, and there have been plenty of good non-QBs who have switched schools. But Hurts would be a big get for most programs, and he’d have a lot of options if he needed a new school.
Hurts’ father also explained what he told Hurts after the national title game, when Tagovailoa — a former five-star, all-everything recruit — took over and gave this whole discussion steam:
“I told Jalen, you f--ked up, you opened the door and put yourself in this situation. Now it’s up to you to dig yourself out.”
The comments don’t mean anything is imminent, and Hurts’ father might not speak for his son. But a Hurts transfer at some point could make sense.
Hurts has accomplished a lot in two years at Alabama. He’s not one of the handful of best quarterbacks in the country, but he’s good enough to start for the majority of Power 5 teams. Maybe he’ll find a role in the NFL someday, too.
But Tagovailoa is a higher-upside option for Alabama, and if Nick Saban chooses the younger guy, Hurts is too good to spend the rest of his college days as a backup. That’s true even if he loves Alabama more than anything. (And Hurts has looked like a model teammate through all of this, with a close relationship with Tagovailoa.)
Quarterbacks transfer a lot, because teams can only play one at a time. That Hurts might someday move on from Alabama made sense even before his dad substantiated the idea.
Hurts was an early enrollee a couple of years ago, and depending on when a potential transfer happened, Hurts might be eligible to play elsewhere immediately as a graduate transfer. If he transferred this offseason, he’d have to sit out 2018, and he’d have the 2019 and 2020 seasons to play at his new school.
Alabama is 26-2 with Hurts as its starting quarterback. He’s thrown 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in two years, with a 143.5 rating at 7.6 yards per throw. He’s run for another 1,800 yards and 21 touchdowns.