Why Alabama could have trouble taking advantage of Ole Miss' depleted secondary
At this point, Alabama’s quarterback starting position is Jalen Hurts’ to lose.
Through two games (and one start), the true freshman has taken control of an ongoing battle with teammate Blake Barnett, completing 29-of-47 (61.7 percent) pass attempts for 405 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. He’s also shown flashes of ability to run the ball — he was the No. 3 dual-threat from the 2016 recruiting class, per 247Sports — with two scores from his feet, too.
Hurts’ passer efficiency rating of 157.91 ranks No. 2 among SEC quarterbacks (fittingly behind Georgia’s Jacob Eason, who was the No. 1 overall QB in the same class), which is an impressive stat for a first-year player taking over a program that has won four national championships over the last seven years. But like any true freshman, there’s still a ton of room for improvement, as he has been mediocre with downfield passes out the gate.
Alabama's Jalen Hurts is just 4-15 (26.7%) on throws 20+ yds downfield.. still developing his touch on these throws: pic.twitter.com/fnAehkngqQ
— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) September 13, 2016
He’ll get an opportunity to take his game to the next level this Saturday when Alabama travels to Oxford to take on Ole Miss — the team that has accounted for two of the Crimson Tide’s last three losses.
Ole Miss currently ranks second-to-last in the conference when it comes to opponent passer efficiency (140.73) and No. 88 nationally in passing yards allowed (245.5), which includes a strong performance against FCS Wofford last weekend. It was Florida State redshirt freshman Deondre Francois that exploited the Rebels’ depleted, struggling secondary, lighting it up for 419 yards and two touchdowns in the Week 1 opener.
“I will be confident by the time our game comes with our plans and hope that we’ve done a good job of communicating the proper techniques to try to defend their passing game,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said in his Monday press conference.
Alabama quarterbacks have had a difficult time getting the ball downfield against Ole Miss in the last two meetings, averaging just 5.7 yards per attempt with three touchdowns and four interceptions.
One way or another, something’s gotta give. We’ll find out Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. ET.