Editor’s note: Alabama football returns a ton of talent, and has a great opportunity to make another run at the SEC championship and earn a College Football Playoff berth.
SEC Country will take a look at Alabama’s 25 most important players. Obviously, there will be coaches and other key members around the program who will have a big impact on the team’s success. But this list is strictly for the top-25 players for the Crimson Tide heading into 2017.
No. 1 Jalen Hurts
Think about this for a second: The last time Jalen Hurts had the football, he scored a touchdown. If Alabama’s defense had held up against Clemson, his 30-yard touchdown run goes down as one of the best plays in this history of Alabama football.
But Alabama’s defense didn’t hold up as Deshaun Watson drove Clemson down the field to win the game. With that result, we were left with an offseason of question marks surrounding Hurts and his game.
There were even people questioning whether or not Hurts would keep his job, which is a little ridiculous. No disrespect to either of Alabama’s talented freshmen quarterbacks — Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones —but it’s hard to believe Nick Saban and Alabama’s coaching staff want to go through another season with a true freshman as the starting quarterback.
Yes, Hurts struggled passing downfield in the championship game — he was 13 for 31 with 131 yards. So a lot of the blame goes to him.
But there should also be some blame given to the coaching staff and Alabama’s receivers for dropping passes. Either way, Hurts is Alabama’s guy and he deserves credit for what he was able to accomplish.
How many other quarterbacks in the country could have done what Hurts did last season? He earned the respect of his older teammates, won the job and had Alabama a few seconds away from winning a national title. That’s impressive no matter how you look at it.
Hurts won SEC Offensive Player of the Year honors after accounting for 3,734 yards and 36 total touchdowns.
Alabama’s long-term success this season is going to be determined by Hurts’ ability to push the ball downfield. He showed improvement during Alabama’s A-Day spring game, connecting on multiple deep passes for touchdowns.
Saban said in the spring he wants Hurts to focus on his decision-making and getting rid of the ball more quickly. He’ll need to continue working on going through his progressions if his first option isn’t there.
“Not looking at the rush, not drifting in the pocket, reading and having his eyes in the right place … those are fundamentally the things we’re trying to get him to improve on,” Saban said. “I think he’s doing a much better job.
Working with new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and others should help his development.
If Hurts does clean up some of his issues as a passer, Alabama’s offense could be unstoppable given his rushing ability and the amount of talented skill players the Crimson Tide has.
SEC Country’s Top 25 Alabama football players:
- No. 2: The running backs
- No. 3: A versatile defensive back
- No. 4: Run-stuffing defensive lineman
- No. 5: Tide’s next great linebacker
- No. 6: A veteran offensive lineman
- No. 7: A lockdown corner
- No. 8: Tide’s next great offensive lineman
- No. 9: A hard-hitting safety
- No. 10: A key playmaker
- No. 11: A versatile linebacker
- No. 12: A veteran wide receiver
- No. 13: A key special teams player
- No. 14: An elite defensive lineman
- No. 15: A junior college transfer
- No. 16: A powerful offensive lineman
- No. 17: A young player changing positions
- No. 18: An experienced offensive lineman
- No. 19: A new sack artist
- No 20: A powerful linebacker
- No. 21: A young, explosive linebacker
- No. 22: An inexperienced offensive lineman
- No. 23: A veteran safety
- No. 24: Two talented freshmen
- No. 25: Tide hope he’s ‘special’