Jalen Hurts is a unique quarterback in a unique situation.
In 28 starts for Alabama, Hurts has 26 wins. He’s a College Football Playoff national champion. He was the 2016 Southeastern Conference offensive player of the year.
This season, his junior year, he is the Crimson Tide’s backup. His usurper is a sophomore.
But Hurts has a path to extend his college football career. He’s just not going to pursue it, according to Alabama Coach Nick Saban.
The Division I Council, the governing body of college football’s top tier, approved a proposal in January that allows players who participate in up to four games to preserve their redshirt year. It’s designed for players who suffer an injury early on in a season or for young players who get playing time in the beginning of a season but sit later to keep an additional year of eligibility.
Since Hurts played right away as a true freshman in 2016, he could still redshirt this season or next, which would allow him to leave Alabama (if he wanted to) and transfer with two years of eligibility remaining. And with the Tide already having played three games, Saturday’s top-flight matchup at No. 22 Texas A&M would have to be Hurts’s final appearance of 2018.
But Saban told ESPN the plan is to keep using sophomore starter Tua Tagovailoa and Hurts the rest of the season. The Tide have used Hurts in a limited capacity in short-yardage situations and blowout wins so far, but he hasn’t started a game since the national championship game in January, when he was benched at half time after an abysmal start.
“It’s the same as it’s always been, to use them both,” Saban told ESPN. “It evolves a little bit as you go. Our team has evolved. I can’t tell you exactly how it all will play out. It’s going to be whoever helps our team play the best, and they’ve both played a role in doing that.”
Hurts is on track to graduate in December and could leave after the season as a graduate transfer and play right away with a single year of eligibility. That would make him an attractive transfer candidate, but two years of eligibility with such a loaded resume would be unheard of.
“I understand how unique a situation this is,” Saban said. “I don’t know of any other precedent at any time in college football where a guy started 28 games, won 26 of them and then somebody took his place. That’s never happened. So that’s hard for Jalen, and it’s hard for me. I’m a loyal guy and loyal to the guys who get out there and lay it on the line for you. You want to be fair to all of your players, but you also want to be fair to your team.
“We needed both quarterbacks last year, and we’ll need them both again this year.”
Saban also said Hurts has never told him he wanted to sit out to take his redshirt season.
“Every time I’ve talked to Jalen since the season started, he’s said, ‘Coach, I want to play,’ and has never said otherwise,” Saban said. “He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s never asked not to play in a game. He says he’s ready to play and has practiced well and prepared well.”
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