It’s been quite an emotional calendar year for Alabama junior quarterback Jalen Hurts, one of college football’s most polarizing No. 2s of all-time.
Forced into the shadows during January’s national title game win over Georgia after he was benched at halftime, Hurts slogged through an offseason’s worth of banter about his future behind Tua Tagovailoa and made the decision to stick it out this season without the glow of the spotlight.
His career came full circle earlier this month after coming off the pine to lead Alabama to a comeback win with two fourth-quarter touchdowns in the SEC Championship Game, locking in another College Football Playoff berth.
And now, he’s a graduate of a university he’s given so much to over the past three years.
Former Alabama play-caller Lane Kiffin, who helped coax Hurts to the Crimson Tide as a four-star prospect in 2016, congratulated his former quarterback on his accomplishments this week on Twitter, taking it back to the initial meeting between the pair.
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) December 18, 2018
Kiffin has been extremely vocal in defense of Hurts throughout 2018, defending him during the spring while in a battle with Tagovailoa and in August when it was clear Alabama’s offense was shifting in another player’s direction for the foreseeable future.
“Someone asked me that question about a month ago in an interview, should he play another position? The guy was the SEC Offensive Player of the Year as a true freshman—the first one since Herschel Walker to do that,” Kiffin said during a Sports Illustrated-hosted podcast earlier this year. “And you want him to play another position? That doesn’t make any sense to me at all. I know while we were there we had a great quarterback that every team in the country would want. He is a great quarterback. He still is.”
Kiffin praised Alabama’s quarterback depth this summer and all but predicted exactly where the Crimson Tide would be at this point — unbeaten and ranked No. 1 heading into the national semifinal vs. Oklahoma on Dec. 29 in the Orange Bowl.
“They’re in a great position. Everybody in the country would like to have it. People say it’s a bad thing. It’s a great thing,” Kiffin said. “You have two dynamic players with dynamic skills that are in their first and second year of college, which is why everybody thought we wouldn’t be able to get Tua with Jalen coming off an SEC Offensive Player of the Year season, and Tua still came, which you saw his competitiveness.”
The widely-accepted belief, at least nationally, is that Hurts will leave Alabama after the season and play his final season elsewhere. Yahoo Sports reported Tuesday that Ohio State is in the mix — along with others — for Hurts’ services.
It’ll be interesting to see if Hurts says goodbye to the Capstone or finishes what he started as one of the program’s most impactful signal callers ever.