Jalen Hurts is still the man…Welcome Brian Daboll
I remember the buzz following Jalen Hurts after the A-day game last year. Even before that, he simulated Deshaun Watson before the Championship Game. Even though he was drawing raves, history wasn’t on his side. That history being the fact that Nick Saban had never started a true freshman QB. Only one has started in the history of Alabama football. Simply put, Jalen Hurts was a true freshman, and true freshmen don’t start at the University of Alabama at quarterback.
Add to that the fact that three other more experienced Quarterbacks were already ahead of him, and even though it seemed intriguing, it just seemed unlikely. Hurts brought athleticism to the position that isn’t a big asset of the usual Nick Saban quarterback other than former starter Blake Sims who was able to use his legs and be allusive when necessary. Other guys were just more experienced and further ahead in then Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin’s offense. Hurts was the future, but he couldn’t really come in and start as an 18 year old could he?
I, like anyone else, has always thought that the best person for the job should play, but I also thought that Hurts may not be ready to start in the SEC for a team that wants to contend for a championship as an 18 year old. Not that I was rooting against him, because there is no reason for that, but I was thinking that Coach Saban always goes with experience, and even if he didn’t, Blake Barnett came to campus the year before and he had created a buzz.
Another year, another QB competition that seemingly takes an eternity to be unresolved. I thought about Nick Saban and his “process” and how well waiting to see who the best guy is has worked out for him at The Capstone going back to AJ Mccarron and Phillip Sims. It took three games for AJ to win the job, and we know how that worked out. Records were broken, championships were won, but eligibility runs out.
Coaches change schools also, and Alabama also saw Offensive Coordinator Doug Nussmeier move on after that season. What did Nick Saban do? The most unlikely move of his Alabama coaching career (so far). Who would’ve thought that he would hire Lane Kiffin? An offensive extraordinaire for sure, but this is the same Lane Kiffin that coached the Raiders in the NFL, the Tennessee Vols and USC. He was as unlikely a candidate to run Saban’s offense as you could think of. On top of that, the most experienced QB at the time is former running back Blake Sims.
Another year, and another QB battle with Jake Coker transferring in from Florida State after sitting behind Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. We all became spoiled with the greatness of McCarron, then we go on to a QB battle between two guys with no starts. This is where Kiffin showed his abilities as a Coach. There was a buzz about Coker and his arm, but Sims ended up winning the job after the start of the season. Honestly, I was glad he did, because he waited his time for four years, and he gave Alabama fans a pretty good show that year.
He would go on to set passing records and helped lead Alabama to the first ever College Football Playoff. Even though it ended with a loss to Ohio State in the semi-final, things were great because Alabama football was still great even with so much change going into the season. More change was to come though. Sims was a senior, so another new QB would be starting next season. Most fans, like me, started to speculate as soon as the season was over.
Is it going to be Coker? Is it going to be Cooper Batemon? There is no offseason. Once again, Alabama nation had to trust the process and wait until after another season started before we all knew who would be starting at Quarterback. Coker ended up winning the job, and the rest is history. Another Championship to add to an already hefty history of championships. The Saban-Kiffin pairing is working pretty well. Another year in the playoff, and a Championship this time around. Another senior QB also, which means another offseason of questions. On top of that, Kirby Smart is leaving to go to the University of Georgia.
Nobody got things twisted. Offense can win some games and get you on Sportscenter top 10, but defense can win you championships. Nick Saban has built his career on being a defense guy, and the machine he has built at Alabama has routinely put out top ranked defensive units. These are the guys that can give even a new QB a chance by making sure he doesn’t have to play catch up on the regular.
Enter Jeremy Pruitt from Georgia. Top shelf hire. Worked under Saban before. He will make sure the defense doesn’t miss a beat, but once again, who will be behind center on offense? Once again, that is THE question, but once again the trust is there because Saban and Kiffin are still there. For the third straight season, this question is unanswered going into the season opener.
Blake Barnett is announced as the starter seemingly right before the September 3rd game against USC, and I thought the question was in the past and that we wouldn’t have to wait more than one game to know who the starter was going to be. I was right, but Barnett would end up being replaced by Hurts after the offense wasn’t producing enough yards, and after fumbling on his very first college snap he would throw two TD passes and pass for 118 yards while going 6 for 8.
He also rushed for 2 TD’s, which is an exciting element to the offense from the quarterback position that would serve him and the team well throughout the season. All in all, it served him well to have such a stout defense in this game (USC only scored 6 points) and throughout the season, and running back Damien Harris rushed for 138 yards on 9 carries. Alabama found its quarterback. Hurts went on to win the SEC Offensive Player of the Year and SEC freshman of the year. He started all 15 games and passed for 2,780 yards and 23 touchdowns to 9 interceptions, while rushing for 954 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Despite pushes from people out there that are never satisfied and want to see Tua Tagovailoa start after Alabama lost the National Championship game to Clemson where Hurts didn’t have his best showing (13-31, 131 yards, 1 TD), and couldn’t convert on 3rd down, his performance wasn’t as bad as some have made it out to be. I thought the game was over after his rushing touchdown with a little over two minutes remaining.
Alabama just hurt themselves with penalties (and if I remember right there were two against the defense on Clemson’s last drive), and it hurt the offense when Bo Scarbrough went down. He left the game with 93 yards on 16 carries and 2 touchdowns. It doesn’t matter what offense we run or who is throwing the ball, Alabama always uses the running game to wear opponents down. With him being the workhorse the last couple of games and Clemson being unable to stop him I wonder what could’ve been had he not went down with an injury.
I wish him well, and he will be back strong next year, but Hurts in the unquestioned QB and the MVP in this offense in my opinion. He will develop more as a passer. That’s what practice and the off season are for. Who knew that he would go on to have the type of year that he had? I think in today’s world some people tend to focus on the bad and not appreciate what they have, and that leads them to want whatever (or whoever) is new.
I would say don’t forget that Hurts was only 18 years old and is far from a finished product. Despite that fact, look at what he was able to do this past season. If he keeps progressing, I see him possibly going to the NFL after his junior season, and leaving the offense to Tagovailoa, who at that point would have three years of eligibility remaining if he redshirts during the 2017 season. That’s a great scenario in my mind. If Hurts stays 4 years, I certainly wouldn’t complain. I’m not a fan of the Heisman trophy, but at times during his true freshman season he was being mentioned as a possible candidate, but people continually point to his issues. Imagine what good he will become with more experience?
I don’t know for sure how things will turn out next season, but I’m going to assume that Hurts will be the starter. The real question now is who will call plays? Here we go again with questions, but the word on the street is that New England Patriots tight ends coach Brian Daboll will be named the new OC. With success comes opportunity, and opportunity has come knocking frequently with assistants under Coach Saban. Kiffin went to FAU, which still baffles my mind, but the guy wanted to be a head coach again. My hopes that Kirby smart would stay and take over after Saban were dashed, and I honestly hoped the same for Kiffin afterward. He is gone, but Sarkisian was there. WAS.
The fact that Sarkisian left to take the same position for the Atlanta Falcons was surprising to me, because he was able to get that job after only coaching one game over a couple of seasons, but it is what it is. He is gone. Welcome Brian Daboll. Obviously, he comes from a championship atmosphere being under Bill Belichick for four seasons. He has 17 years of NFL experience and was a grad assistant under Coach Saban for 2 years under him at Michigan State.
It helps that they have a history, and Coach Saban is great at picking offensive coordinators. He has won at least one title with every OC he has had at Alabama, so why can’t it happen again with Daboll? Look at the weapons the future OC will have…Hurts, an embarrassment of riches at RB, Calvin Ridley. It’s an attractive job. They get a whole spring and summer to work together before next season. Stay tuned. Roll Tide Roll.