Jalen Hurts’ father weighed in on Alabama’s quarterback situation in April. Coach Nick Saban has answered innumerable questions about the position in the offseason. Teammates have been asked for updates on the competition. Nearly every college football columnist and commentator has had time to issue an opinion.
Jalen Hurts finally had his first opportunity to answer questions on Saturday. The junior quarterback spoke to the local media for the first time since the end of Alabama’s 2017 season.
“There’s been a lot of rumors, a lot of speculation about things that have gone on this summer,” Hurts said. “The funny part for me is the people making decisions for me. It’s actually kind of good to see you all, I kind of feel like they’ve been hiding me from you all. There’s been a lot going on, a lot of things being said. Everybody has something to say, everybody has an opinion. The funniest thing about it is I’ve never said a thing. I kept my mouth closed, didn’t say anything to anyone. Regardless, people are believing the things that are being said, it’s hard to believe something when the number-one source didn’t say anything.”
Saban was asked at SEC Media Days last month if he expected Hurts to be on the roster for Alabama’s season opener on Sept. 1. Saban responded, “I have no idea. I expect him to be there,” before reiterating that Hurts still would be competing for a starting job and could contribute this fall.
Saban has said since then that Hurts met with him. The quarterback told the coach he didn’t plan on transferring during the season. Hurts is on track to graduate in December, at which point he could choose to transfer without penalty after playing out the quarterback battle and the 2018 season.
“We had a conversation about that,” Hurts said. “I was kind of shocked that he said that. Me coming at him and seeing what was going on and all that then, I told him, and I told him in June, that I’d be here. It was never a decision that had to be made in regards to me leaving. That was something that the general media placed on me and I kind of never said it. With that, I told him ‘I told you already that I’d be here.’ I’m about to graduate in December so why leave? Even though I’m not in a situation in which I think I should leave, I’m here. Why do that when you’re only 15 credits, 15 hours away from graduation.”
That repeated part of Saban’s answer at SEC Media Days, when he referenced that Hurts was nearing graduation.
Both quarterbacks took reps with the first and second team during Saturday’s fan day practice. It was still just the second day of fall camp for the Crimson Tide, with plenty of practice time left before Alabama’s opener against Louisville.
“You guys are totally fixed on ‘Somebody has to be has first team and somebody has to be second team,’” Saban said earlier in the day. “Tell me why. I’m asking you why. You can’t answer that. Then why. I’m asking why. Why do you think that way? If there’s people on our team that can contribute why would we not utilize their abilities to be able to contribute on our team in some form or fashion. Just like when we have a guy that’s a great (designated pass rusher) and we put him in on third down and he rushes the passer. He’s not a starter. But I guess at quarterback that just doesn’t matter in you all’s mind.”
Sophomore Tua Tagovailoa missed nearly all of spring with a hand injury, placing the competition on hold. Hurts didn’t speak to the media during the spring, though Saban and players fielded questions about quarterbacks. The situation continued to simmer.
“That’s always been the elephant in the room,” Hurts said. “For me, no one came up to me the whole spring, coaches included, no one asked me how I felt. No one asked me what was on my mind. No one asked me how I felt about the things that were going on. Nobody asked me what my future held. That’s that. So now it’s like when we try to handle the situation now, for me, it’s kind of late, it’s too late, the narrative has already been created.”
Hurts said he would have preferred for that conversation to be more open.
“I think as a player you definitely want to feel some concern from your coaches, I guess,” he said. “But I don’t necessarily think they were not concerned, because they’re definitely concerned. I just don’t think that maybe they were bold enough to ask, like it was, I know it’s there but I don’t want to talk about it. I definitely think it was something that should have been talked about a long time ago instead of being talked about when it’s here.”
Tagovailoa and Hurts have supported one another publicly throughout their time together as teammates. That hasn’t changed during this offseason.
“We don’t talk about any quarterback controversies at practice,” Tagovailoa said. “Me and Jalen don’t bring it up. As far as this season, we’re just looking at getting each other better. There’s no negative contingencies, we don’t go into games thinking I might not start or I’m going to go into this game and I’m going to throw a pick. No negative contingencies, we want to be positive because the team looks at that.”
By the time spring practice had finished, Hurts said the narrative surrounding the quarterback battle had already been set. Speculation continued into the summer about the possibility of a transfer. Others made their own assumptions.
Hurts had the chance to address that on Saturday.
“I think, like I said, they didn’t want me to talk for whatever reason,” Hurts said. “I get the opportunity to speak now. I’ve always tried to handle situations like this and handle speaking the best way that I can because at the end of the day I’m representing myself and I’m representing my family back home.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.