Jalen Hurts’ last entry in the statistical record for A-Day was a tackle. A tackle he had to make after throwing an interception.
That’s never an auspicious ending to a game for any quarterback but it summed up what was probably a frustrating day at the end of a frustrating week in the midst of a frustrating spring for the Crimson Tide quarterback.
A-Days are what they are — scrimmages in which the rules modifications make just enough difference to skew the statistics, a fact I would point out (and have for many years) whether a participating quarterback was 0-for-40 passing or 40-for-40.
So it’s fair to point out Hurt’s greatest asset — his running ability — was negated by the two-hand touch rules that applied to quarterbacks. It’s also fair to point out the Alabama offensive line had a hard time blocking the first-team defense, especially Raekwon Davis and Isaiah Buggs.
But it is also fair to point out that, even when he was given time, Hurts threw the ball behind numerous receivers, or wide and out of their reach. Even his best play, a 59-yard completion to DeVonta Smith that kept Hurts’ statistical line from looking far worse than it finally did, was short of the target and required an excellent adjustment by Smith to make the catch.
Other deep balls were either too far or not far enough.
Nick Saban, who was cautious not to criticize Hurts in the post-game, saying he was “not disappointed” in Hurt’s performance, admitted “even Jalen would tell you he could have done better on some things.”
Saban was also caught on a live microphone questioning a run/pass decision by Hurts “after two years.” That also might mean something, although Saban’s running commentary on a play-by-play basis probably includes a lot of criticism. Live microphones were either not an issue when Lane Kiffin was on the sidelines, or they flat-out melted.
A-Day isn’t going to be decisive in determining the starting quarterback for Alabama. It never has. It has been a tough spring for Hurts, and seeing Mac Jones walk up and take the MVP trophy couldn’t have helped.
For one thing, the main competition for what has been Hurts’ starting job, Tua Tagovailoa, didn’t really compete. Instead, a couple of hand injuries kept him on the sideline where he could neither seize the job for himself (he’s certainly capable of doing that) or make some mistakes of his own (like all quarterbacks, he can do that, too.)
That left Hurts competing with an off-stage superstar whose last pass of the previous season is already a part of college football history. The only thing harder than beating out Tua would be beating out Highlight Tua. That’s pressure.
Then, Hurts’ father, in an interview with Bleacher Report last week, issued what could only be construed as an ultimatum. It may not have been meant that way, and Saban downplayed the matter earlier this week, but many people construed it as a “start or else” situation and an undisguised threat to transfer. That may still be the outcome by the time the Louisville game rolls around in August but the fact is, performance speaks louder than words and Hurts’ performance on Saturday did not improve his chances.
Through it all, the Alabama fans in attendance seemed generally supportive — there were no audible boos or catcalls from where I watched, press box or field level. There were some audible groans when Hurts’ last fourth-down pass sailed downfield to no one in particular, but that was understandable.
A-Day is not decision day. Saban’s post-game comments about players needing to improve “over these next four or five weeks” may have been meant for all, but certainly seemed applicable to one.
A full-game opportunity — and when is the last time a two-year starting quarterback played every minute of an A-Day game? — yielded scant results. Who knows how many more opportunities there will be with an actual game being next on the schedule?
The answer, probably, is not many.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.