I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Jalen Hurts doesn’t look any better as a passer this year than he did last year.
The 2016 SEC Offensive Player of the Year was 10-for-18 with 96 yards passing and one touchdown, while rushing 14 times for 53 yards, against Florida State. He once again had more rushing attempts than completions. This is not what you should be looking for from your starting quarterback.
The good news is Jalen Hurts is still a phenomenal athlete who can evade defenders and make good things happen with his feet. The bad news is he doesn’t seem to be progressing as a passer.
Let’s break this down into “Good Jalen” and “Bad Jalen” from the opener.
“Good Jalen” came on his lone touchdown pass, hitting Calvin Ridley for 53-yards putting the Tide up 10-7 early in the second quarter. Hurts also threw a two-point conversion that, with the help of his legs, created time for Ridley to work open making the margin 21-7.
Hurts had ten completions, seven going to Ridley for 82 yards. That means Hurts had three completions for a total of 14 yards not involving Ridley. One of those completions belongs to Hurts himself, who caught a batted passed by Derwin James, turning what was almost an interception into merely a one-yard loss.
On the flip side, Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois, who is also a sophomore entering his second year as a starter, went 19-for-33 for 210 yards passing before being knocked out of the game with an injury. Francois hit seven different targets and did so with a meager running attack that totaled 40 yards. Francois and Hurts are two guys who were compared to each other last year and would no doubt continue to have been compared if not for Francois’ injury which will force him to miss the remainder of the 2017 season.
Now comes the bad.
Going back to last year, Hurts has failed to pass for over 150 yards in four straight games. He’s also failed to throw more than 13 completions in four straight games. We were told that new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll could help develop Hurts as a pocket passer. What we saw in game one was more of the same from last year: Hurts looks to his first read and more times than not, if it’s not open, looks for running room.
Alabama’s passing game has become Hurts looking downfield and then running if Ridley isn’t open.
To be fair, credit goes to the front seven of Florida State which did a phenomenal job most of the game putting pressure in the backfield and disrupting what the Tide was trying to do. Some of the blame also goes on the offensive line. We’ve become accustomed to a certain level of perfection from Alabama and are surprised when we don’t see it. The running game output of 42 carries for 173 yards hasn’t been that low since Alabama played Kentucky last year, rushing for 173 yards on 37 carries.
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