TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Speaking to reporters for the first time since he was benched at halftime of the national championship game in January, Jalen Hurts expressed disappointment with the way Alabama‘s quarterback battle has been handled during the offseason.
Hurts, who is in competition with Tua Tagovailoa for the starting job, said there have been times when he’s been frustrated by what he described as “rumors” and “speculation” and “people making decisions for me.”
“When I look at the things that are being said — and I’m not looking for it, it comes to me — when I see that those things are being said, that’s silly because, ‘He said this, he said that, maybe Coach [Nick] Saban said this,'” Hurts said. “Whoever said whatever, what did Jalen say? Not a thing.”
In particular, Hurts said he was “shocked” when Saban told reporters at SEC media days that he had “no idea” whether Hurts would be on the roster opening day. Shortly thereafter, Hurts met with Saban to set the record straight that he was intent on staying, regardless of whether he started, and graduating in December.
“I mean, this is a situation that is uncontrollable,” Hurts said. “Coaches can’t control this situation. They dictate who plays, but as far as the other variations to it, they don’t control it, honestly. Like I said, this whole spring, ever since the game, they kind of wanted to let it play out, and I guess didn’t think it was a thing to let it die down like there wasn’t something there. But that’s always been the elephant in the room.
“For me, no one came up to me the whole spring, coaches included, no one asked me how I felt. No one asked me what was on my mind. No one asked me how I felt about the things that were going on. Nobody asked me what my future held. That’s that. So now it’s like when we try to handle the situation now, for me, it’s kind of late, it’s too late, the narrative has already been created.”
Hurts said that he would have liked to have seen more concern from his coaches.
“But I don’t necessarily think they were not concerned, because they’re definitely concerned,” he explained. “I just don’t think that maybe they were bold enough to ask. Like, it was, I know it’s there, but I don’t want to talk about it. I definitely think it was something that should have been talked about a long time ago instead of being talked about when it’s here.”
Saban, for his part, has insisted that the competition between Hurts and Tagovailoa isn’t close to being decided.
Hurts, who is 26-2 as a starter and threw 17 touchdowns to one interception last season, has the edge in terms of experience. But Tagovailoa, who threw three touchdowns in the come-from-behind win of the national championship, is as talented a passer as Saban has had during his time at Alabama.
“With the success that I’ve had here in my first two years, I’ve built a brand for myself, and I’ve tried to represent this university in the best way I can,” Hurts said.
Saban said on Saturday that the decision will be made at a “higher level” based on “consistency in performance” and leadership.
“You guys are totally fixated on who has to be first team and who is second team. Why?” Saban asked reporters, frustrated by the line of questioning.
Asked about the possibility of playing both QBs, Saban said that they don’t focus on “creating negative contingencies.”
“We haven’t done it at all,” Saban said. “We’re practicing every day, we’re evaluating every day. … I want them to be focused on what they have to do to win.”
Hurts said he’s approaching the competition the same way he did when he entered Alabama as a true freshman fighting for a spot on the team.
“I know what I need to do,” he said. “I’m definitely not looking over my shoulder. I’m not worried about anybody else. I’m just worried about me, Jalen Hurts, being the best player that I can be, be the best quarterback that I can be.”
Tagovailoa, for his part, said he’s not focused on winning the job.
“I don’t think that’s ever been in my persona,” he said. “I think what we have to do as a team is what’s most important to me. We’ve got to focus on what we can do now to better ourselves, better each other. As the season goes on, we’ll see and what-not. But we’re just focused on trying to better ourselves as a team, preparing for the first game, and just looking at how we can identify ourselves this year.”
Alabama opens the season on Sept. 1 against Louisville in Orlando, Florida.