Jalen Hurts may have just won a National Championship, but his situation is anything but enviable.
His inability to perform as a passer on the NCAA’s biggest stage for the second straight year gave way to the emergence of his backup, Tua Tagovailoa. After Tagovailoa’s three-touchdown performance in Alabama’s victory, Hurts’ demotion will no doubt continue into next season. It’s Tua time.
That leaves Hurts in an uncomfortable predicament. He’s got options, but none of them are particularly enticing. He can transfer to a low-end program in the SEC (or something comparable) with hopes of taking the reins at quarterback. Or he can stay at Alabama to see what Nick Saban has in store for him — which may entail a position change.
Barring a huge transformation, Hurts will attract little interest from NFL teams as a quarterback. Transferring to another team is unlikely to change that — especially if he can’t win the starting job, which is a real possibility.
Staying at Alabama seems like the obvious choice.
If he stays at Alabama, he can serve as the backup quarterback in the event Tagovailoa becomes too mistake-prone for Saban’s liking. And that could happen considering how inadvisable Tagovailoa’s interception was in the national championship. On the play, he threw to two receivers and three defensive backs. All of the defensive backs were facing the ball, and none of the receivers saw the ball coming. Hurts could feasibly retake the starting job next season.
In the meantime, he doesn’t have to keep the bench warm. He could begin working at another position, which would increase his chances of making it to the NFL. He could experiment with the receiver position. Hurts isn’t a burner, but he’s a long-strider who has deceptive speed. He’s not going to be the next Braxton Miller, but Hurts could work toward becoming a possession receiver or H-back. Perhaps the comparison is ambitious, but he could aspire to be the next Hines Ward.
Ward, who was 6-foot, 210 pounds in his playing days, played quarterback, running back and receiver at Georgia before going in the third round of the 1998 draft. He didn’t play much quarterback, mostly because he wasn’t very good. But there was a similar indecisiveness about his position like there might be for Hurts.
Hurts is 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds. During his 2017 spring workouts at Alabama, he recorded a 4.48 40-yard dash, likely without any training. (Draft prospects work for months on improving their 40 time.) Hurts also bench pressed more weight than many receivers on the Crimson Tide. That was when he was committed to playing quarterback. He could start working out like a receiver, and his body type might change accordingly.
Alabama has a handful of talented receivers, though Hurts could fight his way into the mix if he showed reliable hands and the smarts for the position, which he almost definitely possesses with a quarterback’s knowledge of the playbook. Hurts has proven more than capable with the ball in his hands, and could be a yards-after-catch receiver.
Leaving Alabama is just as big of a risk is staying. So why not stay?