Last year’s College Football National Championship was supposed to be Alabama sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts’ first college title. He had gone 25-2 as a starter for the Crimson Tide up until that point.
Success found Hurts early and often, so he probably wasnt emotionally prepared for being benched and watching Tua Tagovailoa lead Alabama to a shocking 26-23 victory over SEC rival Georgia in overtime.
Tagovailoa, a prized QB recruit from the island of Hawaii, grabbed the moment, sealed the deal and immortalized himself in Alabama and college football lore by throwing a 41-yard pass to DeVonta Smith for the Dub.
It was simple math. Hurts 24 plays accounted for just 94 yards, but Tagovailoa 46 plays accounted for 278 yards and the win.
Tua Tagovailoa with the beautiful dime. FOR. THE. WIN. #NationalChampionship https://t.co/HscQqolfcA
When Coach Nick Saban refused to guarantee Hurts the starting job for this season, rumors swirled that he would transfer rather than sit on the bench and further damage any hopes of reaching the pro level.
Well, this just got interesting… #AlabamaFootball head coach Nick Saban has stated he is unsure if QB Jalen Hurts will be on the roster when Bama plays Louisville in the season opener on Sept. 1. Listen to coach address the media on the QB controversy below #RollTide https://t.co/Ta8mriZwA6
Instead, with the same dignity that he exemplified in being a team player and supporting Tagovailoa despite being benched for the first time in his life, Hurts has told Saban that he plans to return for next season and fight for the starting job.
Jalen actually came to me and said I am going to be here. I am going to be here. I came here to get an education. I graduate in December, and I am going to be here, Saban said Hurts told him per ESPN on SportsCenter.
Jalen Hurts tells Nick Saban he’s not leaving Alabama, ESPN reports. https://t.co/BGtAgzwxqf
Most young quarterbacks with Sunday afternoon dreams would have headed for the hills, transferred in a desperate attempt to regain the superstar billing that had been stripped from them through circumstances beyond their control.
In 2017, he stormed the college scene and led Alabama to the National Championship game. He became the first true freshman to start at quarterback for Saban and passed for 2,780 yards and 23 touchdowns, completed 62.8 percent of his passes, and rushed for 954 yards and 13 touchdowns, breaking the school single season record for rushing yards by a quarterback.
His 36 overall touchdowns also broke Blake Sims’s previous record of 35 in a single season, catapulting Hurst to instant college star status. It’s amazing to consider that only one year removed from high school, he became the SEC Offensive Player of the Year in leading Alabama to a 12-0 record and a shot at the title.
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One year later, despite being the starter for his entire sophomore campaign, he found himself on the bench, down 13-0 in last years National Championship game, unable to get Alabama’s offense going. It was every superstar quarterbacks worst nightmare and a damaging blow to the reputation of a player who was a Heisman Trophy candidate entering the season and the first player in Alabama history to pass for 300 yards and rush for 100 yards in the same game, and the first to rush for 120 yards or more in multiple games as well.
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Much speculation has been made of the quarterback race since Tagovailoa’s performance and Hurts struggles through the latter part of 2017. He threw one interception last season, but Hurts reluctance to throw the ball stunted the Tides growth on offense.
Tagovailoa seems like a more natural passer and can produce the big plays down the field that Alabama needs to remain elite. Unless Hurts has improved his passing game, it will be tough for him to wrestle the job from the “Flyin’ Hawaiian”.
But when it comes to a good competition and fulfilling a commitment, Hurts never ran and never will.