At SEC Media Days, Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts was the choice for preseason first-team All-SEC quarterback. I found this surprising because for a variety of reasons, I expect Hurts to be largely out of the spotlight – as much as any Alabama quarterback can be – this season.
Hurts played brilliantly as a freshman last season in Lane Kiffin’s offense. Kiffin is a fantastic mentor of quarterbacks and did an exceptional job taking advantage of Hurts’ strengths – athletic ability – while covering his weaknesses – dropback passing. Remember, the last three times we saw Hurts was in the three most important games of the season and he threw for 138, 57 and 131 yards, respectively, against Florida, Washington and Clemson.
One of the reasons I think Hurts’ impact on the Tide will be muted this season has to do with a change in offensive philosophy under new coordinator Brian Daboll. Nick Saban said at SEC Media Days that Daboll will help the Tide “redevelop a pro-style passing attack” in 2017.
To me, this indicates Saban wants his quarterback to run less than last season. While I expect Hurts to have made progress as a passer this offseason, limiting his ability to run (he led the team in rushing attempts last season) reduces his impact. If not for Hurts’ scrambling, who knows how the LSU game last season turns out.
Lessening Hurts’ rushing role may be better for the overall success of the offense, but in the narrow prism of Hurts as a star in college football or the first-team all-conference quarterback, it’s damaging.
Additionally, the Tide’s backfield is as deep as I can remember, with at least four running backs who can carry the load. That, plus Alabama’s lack of proven depth at quarterback – key word is “proven” – means keeping Hurts healthy should be a top priority. I fully expect Alabama to occasionally utilize Hurts’ legs, but why endanger your quarterback when you have this much depth at running back and a true freshman as Hurts’ backup?
Look for Hurts’ rushing yards (954) and rushing touchdowns (13) to take considerable dips in a more “pro style” offense this fall. That means his “wow” plays will go down, as well — along with the media attention he receives.
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