Jalen Hurts Yet to Be Named Starting QB, Coaches Wary to Ruin Reputation as Best Backup

by Alex Poletti

Jalen Hurts’ transfer to Oklahoma has been one of the top stories at Big 12 media days this week in Arlington, Texas. With the former Alabama quarterback on the squad, the Sooners hope to maintain the record-setting offensive production of last year’s Kyler Murray-led team. However, head coach Lincoln Riley has yet to name Hurts as the starting quarterback, saying he doesn’t want to ruin the 20-year-old’s reputation as the NCAA’s premier backup.

“Jalen is a great player, no doubt about that,” Riley says. “But there’s still some competition for the job. Besides, last year he was the best backup college football has ever seen. I don’t want to take that away from him.”

Despite a 26-2 record for the Crimson Tide, Hurts was benched in the 2018 championship game against Georgia in favor of Tua Tagovailoa. After spending last season on the sideline, Hurts opted to transfer to the Heisman-maker factory known as Oklahoma.

“He’s got to win the job first,” Riley continues. “He’s got the stats, he’s got the talent. If there was a college football version of the Sixth Man of the Year award, he’d certainly win it. But that’s his forte. He’s not known for the deep bombs or the scrambling ability, he’s known for having the potential to do that if the guy in front of him breaks his femur.”

The potential threats to take the job away from Texas native are redshirt freshman Tanner Mordecai and true freshman Spencer Rattler. Perhaps, in choosing a fresher face, the Sooners could replicate the success of last year’s NCAA champs, the Clemson Tigers.

“You saw what Clemson did with Trevor Lawrence last year, freshman quarterbacks are all the rage right now,” Riley explains. “That’s why I’m still considering Spencer or Tanner. We’ve got a lot of talent, we just need to figure out how to use it.”

Despite the numerous comments suggesting Hurts may not have the easy path to the Heisman many assumed he would, the play caller’s talent is undeniable. Already, NFL teams are scouting him heavily, with some even considering him one of the top quarterbacks in the class, rivaling for teammate Tagovailoa. One such team is the Arizona Cardinals.

“We think Hurts has all the talent in the world, and we definitely think he’s worth a first round pick,” Cardinals GM Steve Keim says. “We already have Kyler Murray, so just imagine if we had Jalen riding the bench the way only he can. And we’d do it, too. We drafted Josh Rosen before, so clearly we don’t value these picks anyway.”

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