Grown-up Jalen Hurts makes grown-up decision by picking Lincoln Riley and Oklahoma
I salute Jalen Hurts.
Not because of what he did on the field during his Alabama career, though that should certainly be appreciated. The true freshman who won SEC Offensive Player of the Year was also the reason that Alabama came back and won the 2018 SEC Championship, despite the fact that he had lost his starting job to Tua Tagovailoa.
Speaking of that, remember that time when Hurts watched a true freshman replace him in the national championship and he did nothing but handle himself like a responsible adult? That was a sophomore in college who acted mature beyond his years in a moment that in a way defined his time at Alabama.
On Wednesday, we learned officially that Hurts’ time at Alabama has ended and that he’ll spend his final year of eligibility at Oklahoma. There, he’ll try to become the third Heisman Trophy winner in as many years under Lincoln Riley.
That was obviously a big reason Hurts settled on the Sooners. It was a grown-up decision in every sense.
Shoot, even the way Hurts announced his commitment to Oklahoma was done in grown-up fashion. His Players’ Tribune letter didn’t mention Oklahoma until the second-to-last paragraph. It was basically a thank-you note to Alabama fans.
Hurts addressed his “Alabama Family.” It didn’t matter that there was definitely some overlap between the people who celebrated his comeback against Georgia and the people who said/tweeted/posted negative things about the idea of him leaving Alabama. The latter didn’t act like grown-ups. Hurts still did.
At every point of his Alabama career, Hurts was the poster child for maturity. Even when he aired his frustrations about the lack of communication with the Alabama coaching staff this offseason, he closed by saying “why would I transfer when I’m 15 hours from graduating?”
Duh. Of course Hurts had that in mind while people like myself were focused strictly on road block in front of him.
At Oklahoma, no roadblock stands in Hurts’ way from recapturing his stardom. We know that Kyler Murray is off to the NFL. We know that veteran Austin Kendall is on the move, or at least trying to be on the move (that’s a different subject for the whole transfer discussion).
Even if Oklahoma wasn’t in Hurts’ original plan — he apparently changed his schedule so that he could visit Norman last weekend — he still went about it the right way. He waited for the dust to settle on the Murray situation while he visited 3 schools.
Hurts didn’t take to social media to tease hints about where he’d end up, which probably explains why oddsmakers were so horribly wrong throughout this process. Instead, the coach who’s roughly 14 years older than Hurts, was the one who dropped the teasing tweet:
Man, I spent wayyyyyy too much time analyzing that tweet.
It turns out that Riley had a hunch that Hurts was going to settle on Oklahoma. I mean, how could he not?
Oklahoma made the most sense for Hurts for a variety of reasons that go beyond “they play in the region of the country he grew up in.” Yeah, playing for the first coach to ever have consecutive Heisman Trophy winners in his first 2 years on the job was attractive.
But just think about this. Hurts needs a rebranding. He needs to change the notion that he’s strictly a really good college quarterback. Hurts wants to win games, play on the big stage, and ultimately play quarterback in the NFL. If being an NFL quarterback wasn’t a goal, he would have changed positions and stayed at Alabama.
Nobody in college football can change a quarterback’s narrative like Riley.
If you recall, Baker Mayfield was accomplished but he had a bunch of next-level demerits. He had an embarrassing arrest for public intoxication months before Riley took over. That, plus the debate over his lack of height, didn’t make the outspoken former walk-on an attractive NFL prospect when Riley took over.
One Heisman Trophy and No. 1 overall NFL Draft selection later, it’s safe to say that narrative was squashed.
And remember a few months ago when Murray was supposed to be a 1-year wonder at Oklahoma because the Oakland A’s drafted him in the first round? Well, Murray won the Heisman and turned down baseball so that he could declare for the NFL Draft as a 5-10 junior.
Maybe by this time next year, we’re talking about Hurts in a completely different light, as well. Perhaps like Mayfield and Murray, all he needs is one year in the Riley quarterback rebranding factory to come out an elite next-level prospect. We know Hurts isn’t lacking the attitude or motivation to do just that. And maybe after a year of working with Dan Enos in Alabama’s offense, he’s no longer lacking the passing ability that limited his upside.
Now, the sky is the limit for Hurts in Oklahoma’s offense. After all, this isn’t an immature 18-year-old who Riley is working with. He has an adult, and one who just made the best decision for his adult future.
That’s worth saluting.