How Jalen Hurts’ college growth from Alabama to Oklahoma points to NFL success


How Jalen Hurts’ college growth from Alabama to Oklahoma points to NFL success



When Jalen Hurts left Alabama for Oklahoma, he was a benched quarterback viewed as more of a runner than a passer. A year with the Sooners provided quite the renaissance.

Hurts went from a possible NFL prospect as a gadget player to a legitimate quarterback draft pick in the second round by the Eagles. All it took was one year lighting up the Big 12 in Lincoln Riley’s offense, but it was more than that. Hurts displayed improved mechanics at OU that helped him more accurately and consistently push the ball down the field. Coupled with a rushing ability that fits in the modern NFL, Hurts’ passing improvements led him to Philadelphia despite the presence of Carson Wentz.

There’s no telling what Hurts would’ve become if he’d stayed in Alabama, or if Tua Tagovailoa had never come to take his job in the first place. But the events that followed made Hurts a potential long-term starter in the NFL. Here’s a look back at how one final, emphatic year of growth pointed toward professional quarterback success for Hurts.

MORE: What Jalen Hurts’ expanded QB role might mean for Eagles offense

Jalen Hurts college stats

Year School Completions Attempts Completion % Passing yards Passing TDs Interceptions Rushing attempts Rushing yards Rushing TDs 2016 Alabama 240 382 62.8 2780 23 9 191 954 13 2017 Alabama 154 255 60.4 2081 17 1 154 855 8 2018 Alabama 51 70 72.9 765 8 2 36 167 2 2019 Oklahoma 237 340 69.7 3851 32 8 233 1298 20

Jalen Hurts at Alabama

Hurts arrived in Tuscaloosa for the 2016 season as 247Sports’ No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in his class. He presented a different mold than Alabama QBs of recent vintage, the Greg McElroy and A.J. McCarrons of the world that might best have been described as glorified game managers. As the phrase “dual-threat” suggests, Hurts was going to cause problems by himself for opposing defenses.

Right from the outset, Hurts was the starter for the Crimson Tide. He ran for nearly a touchdown per game as a freshman and completed more than 60 percent of his passes, and Alabama lost in the national title game to Clemson. But Hurts wasn’t a downfield threat as a passer as a freshman.

The below video shows how when Hurts threw deep at Alabama, he required his whole body in the throw and displayed a long, loopy arm path.

Hurts was again a first-stringer as a sophomore, but Tua Tagovailoa was breathing down his neck. When Tagovailoa took over for Hurts and led a comeback to win a national championship, the writing was on the wall for Hurts. While the dual-threat nature of Hurts’ game could still be useful going forward with the Crimson Tide, he wasn’t going to be the passer that put Alabama over the top. That would be Tagovailoa.

The final season Hurts played at Alabama in 2018 was one of occasional cameos rather than full-on dominance. He maxed out at 10 pass attempts in one game, with his single-game high for rushing attempts coming in at five carries. His small-sample stats did suggest an improved passer, with Hurts completing 72.9 percent of his 70 passes, but he announced in January he’d play his final year of college football at Oklahoma.

Jalen Hurts at Oklahoma

Hurts’ throwing mechanics didn’t magically go from zero to hero upon his arrival on OU’s campus, but the subtle changes were there. His arm path still had more length than might be ideal, but he often got rid of the ball quicker thanks to improved lower-half and hip motion.

Right from the start, Hurts was a Heisman Trophy contender with the Sooners, and he wound up finishing second to Joe Burrow’s record-setting season. Some made the case that Hurts was just proof that Oklahoma was a system that made its quarterbacks look good. First there was Baker Mayfield, then Kyler Murray and now Hurts.

But both Mayfield and Murray both went first overall in their respective drafts, while Hurts lasted until the second round. There was still a whole lot of tape of Hurts looking more like a runner than a passer, but he showed his small-sample accuracy improvements from the year before weren’t a fluke. Hurts completed 69.7 percent of his passes at Oklahoma and shattered his season-best for passing yards and passing touchdowns. At one point, Bleacher Report noted Hurts was completing more than half his passes 20-plus yards down the field, much better than the 32 percent from his freshman year.

Playing an LSU defense filled with NFL players in his final college game probably knocked Hurts’ stock the most. He completed less than half his passes in a season-ending loss.

Still, though, Hurts had made improvements. Whether they amounted to a long NFL career as a starter or a backup, they certainly locked him in to having a quarterback future. And if accuracy, especially down the field, was Hurts’ biggest question mark? The same could have been said for Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen, who both have improved as throwers once reaching the pros.

That’s not to say Hurts will turn out as good as Jackson or Allen, but it’s the growth he showed at Oklahoma that presented any hope at all of such an outcome for Hurts.