TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Although University of Alabama coach Nick Saban didn’t reveal any specifics on how junior quarterback Jalen Hurts did during the Crimson Tide’s second spring scrimmage, he did praise his improved decision-making.
“Jalen has had a really good spring from the standpoint that we really tried to focus on continuing to help him develop confidence in the passing game and he has shown signs of being able to do that,” Saban said during his press conference Saturday. “We want to continue to work on that. He has done a really good job.”
The two-year incumbent has a 26-2 record as a starter but was expected to be challenged by sophomore Tua Tagovailoa for the starting job this spring. Tagovailoa’s left hand fracture has delayed the competition — never mind reinforce just how important depth is at the position.
Instead, Hurts has taken nearly every snap with the first-team offense this spring and has the attention of both offensive coordinator Mike Locksley and quarterbacks coach Dan Enos.
While he’s had a different position coach each year with the Crimson Tide, Hurts is aiming to turn around the downward turn his numbers took when defenses were able to key on him and the Alabama running game more. But part of that also was due to Hurts not trusting the called play or going through his progressions.
Every game with Jalen Hurts. Wide open receivers and he just ignores them and tucks and runs. This woulda been 6 for Bo Scar pic.twitter.com/Z3HjYbecSe
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) April 9, 2018
“You can’t just think about making plays. You have to sort of make plays based on how they’re designed and have some faith, trust and confidence in the people that are playing with you that if you go through your progressions, that’s going to give us the best chance to make some explosive plays in the passing game,” Saban said.
“When it breaks down, then you use your athletic ability to try and make up for it. But I think he’s done much better at that this spring.”
Hurts completed 154 of 255 attempts (60.4 percent) for 2,081 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and 1 interception as a sophomore. His passer rating of 150.2 ranked 20th in the nation and was up from 139.1 the previous year, but his overall production dropped significantly.
As a freshman, Hurts was 240 for 382 (62.8 percent) for 2,780 yards and 23 touchdowns, but he also threw 9 interceptions. His run production also dropped from 954 yards and 13 touchdowns to 855 and 8, respectively.
During Alabama’s run to the 2017 national title, he went from throwing for 242 yards while leading the comeback victory at Mississippi State to 112 in the loss at Auburn to 120 against Clemson and just 21 in the National Championship Game against Georgia before being replaced at halftime.
Consequently, A-Day will be a significant test for him even with Tagovailoa likely out following his latest setback. Alabama traditionally has the starting offense playing against the first-team defense, and Hurts and Mac Jones will be the only scholarship quarterbacks competing at Bryant-Denny Stadium next Saturday.