TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The last time anyone bothered to check, Jalen Hurts was still a member of the University of Alabama football team.
He may not have been the starting quarterback when the Crimson Tide hosted Arkansas State on Saturday, but No. 2 was in uniform. He guided the second-team offense during warm-ups and then patiently waited for his turn along with numerous other players.
That seemed to surprise some people. Not anyone who matters, mind you, but these are the same critics who can’t understand why he hasn’t left the program already like Blake Barnett did after losing the starting job to Hurts.
Instead, Hurts made the most of his opportunity and played well against Red Wolves.
“He’s a very confident guy,” junior tight end Irv Smith Jr. said. “He knows what he can do. He knows his ability.”
Just because there’s no longer a competition, or controversy, doesn’t mean that the Alabama’s quarterback position hasn’t remained a hot topic. "What should Jalen do?" has been the talk of Tuscaloosa this past week because at minimum a year of eligibility is at stake.
Sophomore Tua Tagovailoa is the starter and there’s no doubt about that. However, the second Alabama media access ended this week a rumor started up and ran rampant.
This one began with a radio show personality saying that he thinks Hurts should redshirt and transfer. It was compounded by a producer from another show claiming that what the first one suggested was breaking news as fact — that Hurts had already made his mind up to transfer.
What turned the report into a social media avalanche were numerous news sites that aggregate, which is a fancy way of saying that they report things that others are reporting. They ran with it and not one of them made a phone call to check the accuracy of the report.
In a lot of these cases the news service is essentially a group of people in an office somewhere, trying to get online hits to justify their existence.
So the aggregate sites reported it, which led to radio, Internet and TV stations reporting that it was being reported, and the next thing you knew it was a runaway rumor.
No one who covers the Crimson Tide on a daily basis went with the story because it simply wasn’t true.
That’s the kind of world we live in now.
Regardless, it still led to all eyes being on No. 2 again during warm-ups, looking for signs that would indicate if Hurts would play or not.
If he didn’t, it was a dead giveaway that Hurts was looking to transfer.
Instead, he was in his usual spot, getting ready to play. Hurts may not have even known that anything was going on as he went about his business.
Alabama only warmed up three quarterbacks, so that was the first signal that he would play. Hurts came in late in the first quarter, getting some nice applause from the home fans, and with the exception of a lost fumble played well.
His first pass was a 20-yard completion off a naked bootleg. His touchdown throws to Smith and sophomore wide receiver Jerry Jeudy were impressive. He moved the offense effectively, which is always the bottom line with the coach.
“I think both guys did a really good job today,” Nick Saban said. “Both guys played well today. We made some big plays in the passing game. We were efficient in terms of what we did.”
Tagovailoa’s passer-efficiency rating was incredibly good, 238.7. Hurts’ was a hair behind it, 237.9.
“We did a good job throwing the ball downfield, both quarterbacks,” Jeudy said.
Even though Hurts is no longer the starter, no one knows how Saban plans to use him the rest of this season except for maybe Hurts. At minimum he’s a proven player at a crucial position and there isn’t a coach in college football who wouldn’t want to have two quarterbacks like Alabama has on the roster.
Maybe Hurts will eventually transfer. But that’s for him to decide when the time is appropriate. After being a starter for two years he’s definitely earned the right to do what he thinks is right for himself and his career.
But would it benefit anyone for him to not play this season? No.
Could he develop more as a quarterback, here or elsewhere, enough to someday play in the NFL? It seems unlikely.
Can he contribute to this team? Absolutely.
It’s why, in part, Saban made it pretty clear last week that there are no plans for Hurts to redshirt.
"Not from my standpoint,” he said. “I don't know how you can prepare when you pick and choose when you're going to play players. I don't know how you can do that. I mean, you have to get somebody ready to play in the game.
“I don't know how a player really can choose when he wants to play and have any respect for his teammates -- If everybody is committed to the team and doing what they want to do best for the team.”
Hurts appears to be committed. He’s 20, is set to graduate at the end of this semester and has already invested a lot of time and energy into the 2018 Crimson Tide.
As for his presence being a distraction, in case you haven't noticed Alabama has outscored its two opponents 108-21.