Jalen Hurts is the greatest true freshman quarterback to ever take a college football field.
With one game to go on the schedule, historians should be able to say that with confidence. No other first-year quarterback remained in the Heisman Trophy conversation into November. No other first-year quarterback won his first 13 starts. No other first-year quarterback accounted for at least 30 touchdowns.
(We could do this all day.)
And, sure, Hurts gets plenty of help from his Alabama teammates. He’s not the best player on the Crimson Tide this season, and he owes more to “The Process” and the glut of 5-star players on the roster than to his own talents for getting to this point.
But if you failed to see the spectacular individual plays Hurts made time and time again in 2016, you either weren’t watching or you closed your eyes at the wrong moments.
Your next chance comes Monday, when Hurts and the Tide face Clemson in the College Football Playoff national championship game. A rematch of last year’s title game, it begins about 8 p.m. ET at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. TV: ESPN.
Jalen Hurts, so good
Just to be sure you know how special Hurts is, we’ll put it into focus for you.
There are dozens of true freshman quarterbacks that didn’t need to wait long for a chance to excel. The list is surprising long and features plenty of big names.
- In 1979, Dan Marino helped Pittsburgh go 11-1 while he averaged 7.6 yards per pass attempt.
- In 1985, Jamelle Holieway helped Oklahoma win its sixth national title while becoming the first quarterback in 38 years to lead the Sooners in rushing.
- In 2008, Terrell Pryor had a 146.5 efficiency rating and guided Ohio State to a 10-win season. He had 19 total touchdowns: 12 passing, six rushing and one as a receiver.
All great accomplishments by great players. But nearly all of their numbers pale next to Hurts’, who is going through a late-season slump but still towers above his historical competition.
Perhaps his biggest statistical rivals are Josh Rosen (UCLA, 2015) and Robert Griffin III (Baylor, 2008), but their teams were out of the championship discussion by early October. That forces them out of the same conversation as Hurts, whose most popular comparison has not been Rosen or Griffin but rather Holieway, QB of an Oklahoma national champion.
Not since Holieway has the late-season stage been so big for a first-year quarterback. And it’s likely we won’t see such another such run for three more decades.
Here’s a breakdown (in reverse chronological order).
|Player||School||Final team rank||Total yds||Total TD||% Team offense||Passer rating|
|Jalen Hurts||Alabama (’16)||No. 1*||3,511||33||54.4 %||142.1|
|Josh Rosen||UCLA (’15)||NR||3,684||25||60.8 %||134.3|
|Tyler Bray||Tennessee (’10)||NR||1,746||18||36.9 %||142.7|
|Matt Barkley||USC (’09)||No. 22||2,697||17||53.3 %||131.3|
|Tom Savage||Rutgers (’09)||NR||2,106||15||49.6 %||128.7|
|Robert Griffin III||Baylor (’08)||NR||2,934||28||65.0 %||142.0|
|Terrelle Pryor||Ohio State (’08)||No. 9||1,942||19||43.6 %||146.5|
|Matthew Stafford||Georgia (’06)||No. 23||1,940||10||47.9 %||109.0|
|Chad Henne||Michigan (’04)||No. 14||2,606||27||56.2 %||132.6|
|Erik Ainge||Tennessee (’04)||No. 13||1,423||17||27.4 %||135.9|
|Chris Leak||Florida (’03)||No. 24||2,382||18||46.8 %||132.9|
|Philip Rivers||N.C. State (’00)||NR||2,967||28||62.4 %||126.1|
|Matt LoVecchio||Notre Dame (’00)||No. 15||1,280||13||30.9 %||151.7|
|Casey Clausen||Tennessee (’00)||NR||1,431||15||32.0 %||145.5|
|Peyton Manning||Tennessee (’94)||No. 22||1,115||12||24.5 %||145.2|
|Tommie Frazier||Nebraska (’92)||No. 14||1,126||17||23.4 %||136.1|
|Eric Zeier||Georgia (’91)||No. 17||1,785||9||41.6 %||119.1|
|Jamelle Holieway||Oklahoma (’85)||No. 1||1,379||14||27.5 %||137.8|
|John Bond||Miss. State (’80)||No. 19||1,569||10||37.5 %||101.4|
|Dan Marino||Pittsburgh (’79)||No. 7||1,595||11||36.8 %||128.9|
|Ron Reeves||Texas Tech (’78)||NR||1,606||17||42.3 %||118.7|
|Art Schlichter||Ohio State (’78)||NR||1,840||17||39.6 %||93.3|
Other notable true freshmen: Mitch Mustain (Arkansas, 2006), Cale Gundy (Oklahoma, 1990), Wayne Peace (Florida, 1980), Rick Leach (Michigan, 1975)
What do you think: Is Hurts the greatest true freshman quarterback of all-time? If not, who’s your pick? Let us know in the comments section below.