As Tom Luginbill sees it, Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts has a decided edge on his backup.
The Crimson Tide likely will continue to promote a culture of competition at the quarterback position, and Luginbill — an ESPN analyst — believes Hurts and freshman Tua Tagovailoa battling one another will be the best thing for the Crimson Tide offense.
But Luginbill said Hurts’ consistency of demeanor gives him an advantage.
“As physically gifted as Tua is as a passer, he comes in far ahead of where Jalen was a year ago,” Luginbill said during an appearance on “The Roundtable” on WJOX-FM in Birmingham on Monday in which he discussed Alabama wrapping up spring practice. “The one thing nobody knows is what nobody knew a year ago. That is what does a guy do when the bullets start flying by?
“Because for all the deficiencies in the passing game people can point to with Jalen Hurts? Every time something went good, bad or indifferent? He was the same guy. You can’t coach that. You either have it or you don’t. You don’t know that yet about Tua and I think that is an edge right now that Jalen will continue to maintain.”
Hurts comes off a tremendous freshman season in which he threw for 2,780 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also finished second on the team in rushing offense with 954 yards and 13 touchdowns, earning SEC Offensive Player of the Year honors.
However, his struggles in making consistent downfield throws were on full display in the Crimson Tide’s College Football Playoff national championship game loss to Clemson. By now, it’s no secret that Alabama hopes to change that in 2017.
Still, Hurts can’t do it alone — and needs help from his receivers. Calvin Ridley is back for his junior season and five-star wide receiver Jerry Jeudy is already one set of spring practices into his college career. Luginbill believes wide receiver Robert Foster is a wild card in the offense.
“He is the most talented guy they have,” Luginbill said. “But counting on that to be sure that he’s going to do it has been a struggle for Alabama. So it’s going to provide an opportunity for Jerry Jeudy to rise up the chart. Now you’re going to have some really good weapons for the quarterback at Alabama.”
Foster, a fifth-year senior, has 21 catches for 215 yards and two touchdowns, and Luginbill compared him physically to former Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green.
“You’ve got big guys that are possession guys and small guys that run really well,” Luginbill said, adding, “Rarely, do you have the 6 feet 2 or 6-3-type guy that moves like he’s 5 feet 11. That’s what he does.”
Foster taking a step forward could also help an Alabama offense trying to replace three of its top receivers from 2016. Tight end O.J. Howard and wide receivers ArDarius Stewart and Gehrig Dieter are all no longer with the program.
(You can follow Dan Mathews on Twitter @DanMathewsATL)
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