In the not too distant future, Jalen Hurts could be headed to a school near you.
His father said as much in a statement about the reality of Hurts’ situation at Alabama. Tua Tagovailoa looks like the heir apparent quarterback for the Tide, as long as he’s healthy (not a given).
“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.”
He’ll be highly sought, but not exactly the biggest transfer ever. For starters, guys like Russell Wilson and Shea Patterson were more proven as well-rounded passers when they left their schools. Of course, part of that is a dad bragging on his son, and that’s fine. Hurts doesn’t have an agent, so it’s on his father to act on his behalf.
But if Hurts does leave, where should he go?
During a group discussion, some writers on our staff set an over/under of 40 Power 5 teams that would take Hurts as their starter for 2019, if they weren’t blocked by Alabama. He’ll have to sit out the 2018 season if he transfers this offseason.
Among those, which are places he could really shine, given interesting schematic fits? Regardless of current QB situations, give me Hurts at Georgia Tech, Boston College, Kansas State, Florida, UCLA, Utah, Nebraska, or Baylor. (Hurts is from Texas.)
But allow me to propose a radical destination, and a school that’s needed quality QB play for a really long time: Maryland.
It’s less about fit and path to a championship and all that jazz and more about one thing: offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
Canada came over this offseason after a messy split with LSU. There were charges of meddling by head coach Ed Orgeron throughout 2017, and along the way, Canada was stripped of his offense’s inventive motion. And it’s his use of shifts, multiple looks, and window dressing that has me salivating at the thought of what he’d do with Hurts.
Canada designed one run-pass option that effectively combined the power running game, the shovel pass, and the sprint-out pass. Canada loves the shovel option, which, mixed with an outside toss-read game, helped the Panthers beat Clemson in Death Valley. He also put a unique spin on the jet sweep. All of these plays involve a lot of motions, which help the QB learn how to attack the defense on any given play.
At the heart of it all are basic schemes like inside zone or power that everyone else uses. The difference has been that Canada tends to do a lot more outside of those basic runs, with his motions and accompanying options, than other offenses that utilize FBs and TEs. But instead of preventing defenses from stopping these runs with speedy skill athletes spread wide to hold defenders, he’s involving FBs and TEs as options in the attack.
While Canada is reportedly installing more of a pro-style system in with the Terps, he’s a pragmatist. He’s about putting the right players in position to make plays. In the event of a Hurts transfer to Maryland, Canada would surely accentuate Hurts’ talent.
Canada’s never had a QB with the physical tools that Hurts does as a runner. He’s electric with the ball in his hands. From the second he stepped on the field for Alabama as the full-time starter, the Tide have used his speed. He was Bama’s second-leading rusher last season, and if not for Deshaun Watson’s heroics, Hurts’ wheels would have won Alabama a national championship.
Alabama showed you how lethal a Hurts-powered running game can be, even when he’s more of a threat than a runner.
Yes, this is all a pipe dream.
Hurts might beat the injured Tagovailoa out and end up being QB1 in crimson in September. Another thing: Canada’s on his third school in three years now, having gone to LSU last year after a one-year stint running the offense at Pitt. He’s a journeyman even by college coaching standards, and it’s impossible to know if he’ll stay in College Park long enough to coach Hurts in a game. But if the coordinator and QB committed to work together through at least 2019, Hurts-Canada is a schematic marriage I’d love to see.