TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Former Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin stressed one word when describing quarterback Jalen Hurts’ freshman season: “Amazing.”
He even used it twice when doing a 16-minute interview on Ryan Fowler’s radio show “The Game” in Tuscaloosa, Tide 102.9 FM, on Tuesday afternoon.
“It was amazing what he did,” Kiffin said. “He was very beat up over the last game, over the last couple of games, whatever. People just totally forget that he’s just a true freshman. Just to get to that point and be the SEC Offensive Player of the Year, the first one I think since Herschel Walker, to do that and be not coming a pass-happy background in high school, where he’d always been grooming to be this quarterback since he was little.
“It’s really amazing what he was able to do, take the team to the final game and lose a high-scoring game. I don’t know how you can ask more of a true freshman.”
Kiffin said he called Hurts the morning following Alabama’s 35-31 loss to Clemson in the National Championship Game. His message: Don’t dwell on the defeat even though that’s all most people will want to talk about. Focus more on the body of work of his initial season.
“[He] took care of the ball down the stretch,” Kiffin said. “The games he didn’t have the big numbers, he wasn’t turning the ball over.”
Hurts passed for 2,780 yards with 23 touchdowns compared to 9 interceptions. He completed 62.8 percent of his passes and had a 139.1 quarterback rating.
Like many others, Kiffin expects Hurts to only be better in 2017.
“I think he’s going to become more comfortable, playing-wise,” he said. “Downfield accuracy, I was able to catch some of the spring game, he made some good throws. It looks like he’s throwing the ball better downfield and getting used to — it looks like it’s going back to more of a pro-style system.
“Hopefully he’ll light it up this year.
In other comments:
- Kiffin call true freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa a “special talent” and expects him to play this fall.
- When asked how he’s different after being at Alabama, Kiffin said: “I think I’m a lot better coach.”
- While making a comparison of Alabama recruiting as Southern Cal did when he was there, Kiffin predicted tackle Jonah Williams will be an All-American. He also said there were a ton of similarities in the successful programs even though Nick Saban and Pete Carroll are complete opposites.
- Kiffin called the SEC stronger in 2009, when he coached at Tennessee. “What Nick Saban’s done has completely changed the SEC,” Kiffin said, especially in the way Alabama stockpiles talent. In part because those players are not spread around the conference, he said the coaching staff sometimes half-joked that the Crimson Tide’s second-team defense would be one of the best in the SEC.
- As football coach at Florida Atlantic, Kiffin said he’s in favor of the early signing period, but he would have been against it if he was with a bigger program.
- Kiffin called the national championship game difficult to watch, especially considering the work that went into last season. “The only way to describe it,” Kiffin said, “is it sucked.”