Being named the starting quarterback at the University of Alabama is an achievement. Being named the starting quarterback as a true freshman is an even greater achievement.
Alabama signal-caller Jalen Hurts holds the distinction of both titles.
A highly touted recruit from Channelview, Texas, Hurts entered his freshman campaign with promise, but little chance of playing meaningful minutes. After being beaten out in the spring for the starting job by sophomore Blake Barnett, Hurts soon saw his fortunes change.
An uncharacteristically sluggish start in Alabama’s opening game prompted head coach Nick Saban to insert Hurts. Once in the game, Hurts ignited the Tide offense, turning a three-point deficit into a 46-point blowout of the then-ranked No. 20 USC Trojans.
At the midway point in the season, the once second-string quarterback is now being relied upon to lead Alabama to another national championship. Having already amassed over 400 yards on the ground, nearly 1,400 yards through the air and 17 total touchdowns, Hurts being mentioned with the Heisman frontrunners isn’t as far-fetched as some believe.
While his stats are noteworthy for a freshman quarterback in the SEC, Hurts’ composure, leadership and decision making are the qualities that make him special. Having only thrown three interceptions to date, Hurts is not only leading the top-ranked Crimson Tide to an unblemished season thus far, but he is doing so with savvy that most players don’t obtain until they’ve garnered more experience.
Entering the mid-October matchup with a top-10 Tennessee Volunteer squad, many believed Hurts was facing his toughest test yet — a raucous Neyland Stadium crowd and a fiery defense led by All-SEC defensive end Derek Barnett.
Instead, Hurts quickly silenced his doubters and overcame two early turnovers with 275 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns on the ground in Alabama’s 49-10 destruction of the Vols.
With a top-10 showdown looming against the No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies, the Crimson Tide and their freshman quarterback appear anything but rattled.
The Crimson Tide are on the verge of a third-consecutive appearance in the SEC Championship Game. As crazy as it seems, Hurts not only possesses a legitimate chance to lead Alabama to its fifth championship in eight seasons, but given the amount of marquee games remaining, Hurts could potentially snatch the Heisman Trophy as well.
Not bad for a true freshman.
Edited by Adam Milliken
Featured image by Sumner Gilliam