By Austin Payne
Jalen Hurts likely has a more noteworthy relationship with the Mercedes-Benz Stadium than that of even Matt Ryan or Julio Jones, two of the biggest names to ever play there that do it eight times per season.
It was in this arena that Hurts was pulled from his position as the year long starter during the national title game against Georgia in 2017. I remember succinctly the moment in which Nick Saban elected to put Tua in the game over Jalen, and at that moment knew the game was over. I was right.
The irony of this statement, which seems to be a knock against Hurts, is that the very next season the exact opposite happened. After having supplanted JH as the official starter through the 2018 season, Tua went out due to injury in the SEC title game against yet again, Georgia. Jalen stepped in to lead the Tide to victory this time, in a comeback effort where he accounted for two touchdowns that ultimately resulted in a 35-28 Alabama win.
Jalen had shown everyone what he could do in his two years as a starting quarterback for the nations best team. There were many of us, including scouts, who doubted his pure throwing ability as compared to other more “polished” QB prospects. Deep down though i believe we knew, this guy just needs to find the right system to play in that allows his arm to be put on display. There’s no question he has improved in that area, but to act as if our concerns weren’t partially a result of the conservative system in which he played would be naive.
It was clear his time at Alabama was thin once star recruit Tua Tagovailoa arrived on the scene and announced his presence on the biggest stage possible. Many, including myself, were surprised he stayed even for the 2018 season, which seems like a bit of a wasted year for him. Nevertheless, he did find that perfect match and i don’t think any of us have been surprised at the seamlessness with which he has fit into Lincoln Riley’s offense this season.
Having just put up 3,600 yards passing at a 71% clip while throwing 32 touchdowns to 7 picks and also racking up 1,200 yards on the ground with 18…18 rushing touchdowns, all as a quarterback, i think it’s safe to say this has been a symbiotic relationship and an excellent one year investment for both parties involved.
Jalen will again return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium this Saturday night to play, more than likely, his toughest opponent to date. The Georgia teams he faced off against in 17’ and 18’ were very good, Nick Saban even said they were one of his toughest matchups in most recent memory, but this LSU squad is undoubtedly special. While it will be a monumental task to try and dethrone this seasons Goliath of college football, if anyone is capable of playing the role of David it’s Jalen Hurts.