There are still mixed emotions about the NCAA’s transfer rules, and this week — actually, all of January — put every aspect on display, from the positive to the perplexing.
Let’s go with the good news first. The reception for former Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts at the Senior Bowl was overwhelmingly positive, a measure of his personality, his popularity and a reminder of the status that the starting quarterback at Alabama has in this state. Yes, there were and always will be a segment of absolutists in the Alabama fan base that resent Hurts’ for making a decision that was obviously the best one for him.
It was far better for him to play a final year at Oklahoma than spend a season playing behind Tua Tagovailoa. If people begrudge that, or are somehow upset at a promotional “split helmet” that was Alabama on one side, Oklahoma on the other, that’s certainly their prerogative but that seems a small issue to fret about.
Nick Saban, for one, wasn’t bothered. It was Saban who insisted, on his annual Senior Bowl pilgrimage, that Hurts take part in the traditional practice photo with the other Alabama players. Yes, there is always an element of diplomacy involved in Saban’s decision, but this particular gesture had the air of sincerity and was good for all involved.
From now on, Hurts’ football journey will be different. Reviews on his week on the field in Mobile were mixed, some positives mingled with some questions. A word of warning: the next three months will be filled with NFL Draft experts having different takes on every player, because speculation and guesswork fuels the media frenzy in every NFL city and most college campuses.
Saturday’s game wasn’t great for Hurts, although he did show his escapability, which, given the patchwork nature of his offensive line, was the same thing as survivability. He was never destined to look as good as Oregon’s Justin Herbert, who is going to make a bundle of money at the end of April. Herbert may be jockeying for a first-round slot with Tagovailoa, especially if Tua’s medical status reports are inconclusive. (Both will go high enough, it appears.)
For Hurts, it’s more a case of getting drafted, finding the right team, having a positive impact on “locker room culture” and being patient. Do I think he is a Top 64 quarterback, good enough for a roster spot? Yes. Will he need to rely on more than his arm? Absolutely.
Meanwhile, the transfer mill grinds on. The public seems comfortable enough with the graduate transfer rule — Scott Lashley leaving UA for Mississippi State as a grad transfer doesn’t rankle anyone even though he, unlike Hurts, could line up against Alabama on the field. While surmising that no one is rankled by the rule, my guess is Saban doesn’t love it, even if he has to live by it. Alabama tends to be laser-like in its focus on the transfer portal, using it judiciously but to good effect. Landon Dickerson played a big role on the UA offensive line last season. Grad transfer tight end Carl Tucker is visiting Tuscaloosa this weekend and would fill a need in 2020.
Nationally, the transfer quarterback sweepstakes continues unabated. Georgia, Miami and others are likely to start transfers next year. There is also a push (and some pushback) regarding instant eligibility for all transfers, or at least some clarity regarding who gets a waiver and who doesn’t. Jahvon Quinerly would like an answer, at least.
So would coaches trying their best to manage rosters in a changing environment. That doesn’t mean those coaches are against freedom — just that they would favor a little clarity.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @cecilhurt
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