TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama had never played a true freshman quarterback under Nick Saban.
That changed when Jalen Hurts trotted out on Saturday in Alabama’s 52-6 win over Southern Cal. Hurts entered the contest following the second series, and played the majority of the meaningful snaps. Enrolling in January helped Hurts in terms of his “learning curve and being able to learn the offense.” Alabama also kept things simple for him.
“The thing that we did was not have him sort of be ready to run the whole offense, but have a manageable group of plays, a menu or whatever you want to call it that he felt comfortable executing and that we could practice with him so that he could do those things in a game,” Saban said during Wednesday’s SEC coaches teleconference. “We want to continue to try to broaden that in practice, and give him the reps that he needs to try to continue to improve. Not have him do things he’s not ready to do where he’s not going to have confidence.”
Hurts started shaky, but seemed to settle in as the game went on. He finished the night 6-of-11 for 118 passing yards. Hurts accounted for 4 touchdowns (2 passing, 2 rushing). He also turned the ball over twice, including a fumble on the first play of his career.
Saban mentioned that both Hurts and redshirt freshman Blake Barnett played better as the game went on. When he re-entered the game, Barnett made an NFL-level throw to tight end O.J. Howard. Barnett looked off the safety before firing a dart to Howard for 40 yards. Barnett hit Gehrig Dieter in stride for a 45-yard touchdown. Barnett threw for 100 yards and a touchdown while completing 5-of-6 passes.
Saban has said he plans to play both quarterbacks this week, but added that he may “do it a little different way than we did last week.”
That led many to speculate whether or not Hurts would start, or if all three quarterbacks (Cooper Bateman included) would get an opportunity against Western Kentucky on Saturday.
Don’t expect Saban to make his plans public heading into Week 2.
“I’m interested in developing our team. I’m all for Alabama,” Saban said. “I know that a lot of people out there think they have the right to know, but I also know that some of the Southern Cal players said last week that it sure would be nice to know who’s going to play quarterback for them. So, I think that’s a benefit to our team.”