Jalen Hurts entered his name in the NCAA’s transfer portal, according to multiple news reports, the first step for the former Alabama starting quarterback to leave the Crimson Tide. The junior, who backed up Heisman Trophy finalist Tua Tagovailoa this season, has a year of eligibility remaining.
CBS first reported the news about Hurts, which ignited a flurry of responses from college football fans — from the likes of Maryland, where former Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley is the new head coach; to UCF, which will lose starter McKenzie Milton; to West Virginia, which graduated starter Will Grier — attempting to woo the 6-foot-2, 218-pound dual-threat quarterback to their team.
The portal is an online database of student athletes looking to transfer institutions. When a player informs a college that he plans to transfer, the school must post his name to the portal within two business days, and coaches from other schools can begin recruiting those athletes.
The system is part of a 2018 NCAA rule change overhauling a transfer process that once allowed institutions to prevent athletes from going to another school, or restricting what schools an athlete could attend.
Hurts started his freshman and sophomore seasons at Alabama, leading the Crimson Tide to a 26-2 record and consecutive College Football Playoff appearances, and being named the 2016 SEC offensive player of the year. He was replaced at halftime of the 2018 national championship game by Tagovailoa, who then supplanted Hurts as the Tide’s starter this season.
Hurts could have taken a different route, thanks to another NCAA rule change. In January 2018 it approved a proposal that allows players who appear in four games or fewer to count the season as a redshirt year and preserve an additional season of eligibility.
The rule was designed for players who suffer an injury early in a season, or for young players who get playing time in the beginning of a season but sit later, to extend their college careers. Hurts thus could have left Alabama as a graduate transfer with two years of eligibility left.
But Hurts stuck it out as Tagovailoa’s backup and played in special packages this season, and at the end of decisive wins. Coach Nick Saban insisted throughout the season the Tide needed both quarterbacks to succeed.
“I understand how unique a situation this is,” Saban said in September. “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.”
Hurts appeared in 13 games, including a relief appearance in the SEC title game. When Tagovailoa went down with an injured ankle, Hurts entered and led the Crimson Tide to a comeback victory over rival Georgia — Alabama’s opponent in that 2018 national title game — completing 7 of 9 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown and running for 28 yards and another score.
After Tagovailoa struggled in this week’s national championship game, a 44-16 loss to Clemson, Hurts entered late in the fourth quarter to try to spark some offense. Instead, he threw two incomplete passes and rushed for -4 yards.
Hurts will instantly become one of the most sought-after recruits on the transfer market. He’s thrown for 5,626 career yards and 48 touchdowns with 12 interceptions while completing 63 percent of his passes. As a runner, he has 1,976 yards and 23 scores.
Already this offseason, ex-Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant announced he’d transfer to Missouri and former Georgia quarterback Justin Fields jumped to Ohio State.