TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Jalen Hurts is still growing in and learning Alabama’s offense.
It’s going to take time for him to grasp all of the concepts. It’s also going to take patience from the coaching staff and fanbase as Hurts matures in the system.
The things Alabama coach Nick Saban and Hurts’ teammates aren’t questioning are his poise and leadership.
Hurts will lead top-ranked Alabama into Oxford, Mississippi on Saturday for a date with Ole Miss inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS.
“The one thing that I like about Jalen is that he’s got a good disposition about playing the next play,” Saban said Wednesday. “We’re going through a learning curve with him to get him to be confident and understand and make choices and decisions that are going to be beneficial to him and the offense.
“It’s going to be a work in progress, but the thing that I like about him is that he doesn’t get frustrated. He doesn’t get all discombobulated. He has a lot of poise.”
Last week, Hurts became the first true freshman to start at quarterback for Alabama since Vince Sutton in 1984. Saturday will be Hurts first SEC game and road test wrapped into one. There’ll be 60,000-plus screaming and an overwhelming majority of them will be hoping Hurts makes mistakes.
The big stage won’t be completely new for Hurts. His experience in Alabama’s season opener should help him on Saturday. While it was a neutral site matchup, games don’t get much more high profile than Alabama vs. Southern Cal in AT&T Stadium. Hurts always appeared composed in the opener. He responded well after fumbling on the first play of his career.
“I think he has a lot of inner confidence,” Saban said. “He believes that he can do it. It’s important to him. He wants to do it. We have to trust that that’s going to help him develop and do the kind of things that he needs to do. We’re going to support him to do everything in this game that he needs to do and if Blake (Barnett) has to play, we’re going to support him as well.”
Senior defensive end Jonathan Allen is one of the alpha dogs on Alabama’s defense. Allen has noticed a level of confidence in Hurts that is not often seen in a freshman.
“I definitely hear him speaking to the O-Line, talking to the offense in general,” Allen said. “He’s definitely a great leader as a freshman, which is very impressive.”
Hurts arrived at Alabama back in December when the team was preparing for last year’s national championship against Clemson. He helped give the scout team a simulation of Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. Nine months later, Hurts is one of two true freshmen quarterbacks who are starting in the SEC (Georgia’s Jacob Eason).
Through two games, Hurts has passed for 405 yards and 4 touchdowns to just 1 interception. He’s completing nearly 62 percent (29-of-47) of his throws. Hurts also has 2 rushing scores.
Hurts’ 157.91 passer rating is currently the second highest in the SEC behind Eason. Alabama is hoping Hurts packs his efficiency and calm demeanor for the trip to Oxford on Saturday.
“Just the way he carries himself. He’s very poised,” tight end O.J. Howard said. “He knows what to do. He’s an athlete. When he gets in trouble, he can run the ball and just the dynamic threat he brings to the offense are what I think allows him to be very good.”