Replacing the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Year in the lineup would seem like an absurd notion to many, but despite the incredible success achieved by Jalen Hurts during his true freshman season, some are wondering whether quarterback signee Tua Tagovailoa will push Hurts for playing time in Tuscaloosa.

After tearing through the regular season like a man possessed, Hurts’ production did tail off significantly during post season play. After finishing the regular season completing just under 66 percent of his passes, Hurts only managed to throw for slightly over 48 percent in his final three games against Florida (in the SEC Title Game) and Washington and Clemson (in the College Football Playoff).

According to his head coach Nick Saban, Hurts’ downturn in production shouldn’t be put on the young quarterback. Instead, Saban argues, Hurts’ slide should be put on the coaching staff. During his Thursday interview on JOX FM The Opening Drive, Saban claims Alabama “protected” Hurts instead of “developed” him during the season.

“I think we protected him a little bit last year and it might have… it didn’t enhance his development,” Saban said on the air. “Sometimes later in the year, when people played us in a way that he needed to be able to throw the ball, we may not have been as efficient as we would have liked him to been. That was probably our fault as coaches because we didn’t really… we protected him instead of developed him as a young player. The goal this spring, and certainly before next season, is that we can create more balance by being a better passing team, to go along with what we are able to do with our feet as a quarterback.”

Saban didn’t specifically call out any individual coaches during his interview, but it’s fair to ask if he’s referring to former offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Lane Kiffin. After all, Saban did remove Kiffin from his staff following Hurts poor performance following the Washington game and leading up to the National Championship Game against Clemson.

Kiffin deserves a ton of praise for getting so much production out of Hurts during the majority of his first season on campus, as well as getting the most out of Jacob Coker and Blake Sims in season’s past, but can he also be blamed for Hurts’ poor finish to the season?

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