MOBILE — As far as Nick Saban is concerned, Jalen Hurts is still one of his University of Alabama football players. Hurts’ transfer to Oklahoma did not negatively impact the relationship on either end.
Hurts was given that treatment after Wednesday’s Senior Bowl practice, which Saban attended. When Saban posed for pictures with the UA players participating in the game — safety Jared Mayden and outside linebackers Terrell Lewis and Anfernee Jennings — Hurts was in the picture.
“There’s a lot of guys playing in the NFL now that are having a lot of success that are similar style players to Jalen, guys that can make plays with their feet. I think you know who they are,” Saban said. “I think the success of those players has kind of broken the stereotype of, you got to be a dropback passer and this is the only way you can win in the NFL. You see (Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Pat) Mahomes, the guy in Baltimore (Lamar Jackson), all these guys are athletic guys who make plays with their feet.”
Hurts is honoring his time at Alabama by wearing a split helmet in the Senior Bowl. The right side of the helmet will be Oklahoma’s crimson with the interlocking OU logo on it, while the left side is Alabama’s crimson with the No. 2 he wore at Alabama on it.
Defensive lineman Raekwon Davis accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl but is not going to play as he deals with an ankle injury. Saban said Davis called him for advice and Saban said it is a simple decision: if you can create value for yourself by how well you play, then go for it, but if not to let the Senior Bowl know so they can get another player.
Saban’s meeting with the media also came in the days after UA hired Freddie Roach to be its new defensive line coach, a move that has yet to be officially announced by UA.
“When we get ready to release something on Freddie Roach we’ll do it,” Saban said. “There’s always some internal things that have to happen when you hire someone. Freddie’s an Alabama guy and we’d love to have him be a part of our program and hopefully all of those things will work out favorably for us.”
Roach is taking the place of Brian Baker, who served in the position for one year after coming over from Mississippi State. He could slide into the off-field role, assistant athletic director for football, recently left vacant by Burton Burns, the longtime UA assistant that took a position with the New York Giants.
“Burton’s been with us since the very beginning and he did a great job for us in so many ways,” Saban said. “I think it’s pretty obvious all the players that he mentored that play in the NFL, I think every running back that ever started for us since we’ve been there. He’s been a great recruiter, a great ambassador for the program. Came off the field because of injury situations to him — bad knee, bad hip, spent two years pretty much trying to get healthy — and now he had an opportunity to get back on the field. He loves coaching, he’s doing it and we’re happy for him.”