TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban has made it no secret that he’s looking for the passing game to improve this season with returning starter Jalen Hurts.
Monday evening, he gave a progress report that was the equivalent of so far, so good.
The real first test will be Saturday when Alabama plays in its first closed scrimmage of the spring at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
“He still has the ability to run, and makes plays with his feet,” Saban said during his post-practice press conference. “That’s not really what we want to focus on right now and I think he’s sort of bought into that.”
After having a set offensive coordinator during the past three years, but new starting quarterback each season, the roles are reversed this spring with Brian Daboll taking over for Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian.
Earlier this spring, Saban indicated that because Alabama has a returning starter, “It’s easier for us to self-assess what we need to do for him, with him, to help him, to coach him so that he can develop in areas that would be helpful to him becoming even more of a complete player — mostly in the passing game.
“That’s something that we’re going to work hard on in the spring and also in fall. If he could do that and be sort of a dual-threat guy, I think it would be really, really difficult for defenses to defend him.”
On Monday, Saban elaborated on what he wants to see improved.
“Decision-making,” he started the list with. “Getting the ball out of his hand more quickly. Not looking at the rush. Not drifting in the pocket. Reading and having his eyes in the right place, relative to the coverage and the read that particular read has.
“I think he’s doing a much better job in that regard.”
As a true freshman, Hurts completed 240 of 382 passes (62.8 percent) for 2,780 yards, 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2016. He had a passer rating of 139.1, which ranked 44th in the nation.
The reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Year also ran 191 times for 954 yards, which would have easily topped 1,000 if sacks didn’t count against the running game at the collegiate level, and 13 more scores.
But all indications are that his primary focus this offseason has been on Alabama’s air attack.
“He’s working on his pass game a lot and trying to get that right,” wide receiver Calvin Ridley said. “The coach is going to do a good job with him. He’s getting coached really well. So I see great things for him”