OU football: Jalen Hurts' addition figures to keep QB run game in the fold

AP Photo/David Goldman

Alabama's Jalen Hurts looks up during the first half of the national title game game against Georgia on Jan. 8, 2018, in Atlanta.

NORMAN — Jalen Hurts had gotten Alabama to the 15-yard line with his arm.

But the quarterback pushed his former team to the SEC conference title with his legs.

With just over a minute to go, Hurts received a snap on first down and sprinted up the middle, in between a Georgia outside linebacker and cornerback and into the end zone.

Alabama 35, Georgia 28.

“Well, I had an option,” Hurts said of the go-ahead score. “I had to find my movement key and see what would trigger the decision I’d make. My guy went out, so I took it in and had really good open lanes and found a way to get in the end zone.”

Compared to the quarterbacks he’ll follow as a transfer at Oklahoma, Hurts’ throwing accuracy can improve. In 2016 and 2017, he completed no more than 62.8 percent of his passes, while Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray never completed any worse than 69 percent in their Heisman Trophy seasons.

But Hurts’ running ability is a dimension OU coach Lincoln Riley will gladly accommodate for the second straight season.

The run plays drawn up for Murray — who has 4.40, 40-yard dash speed — helped define the Sooners’ run to the 2018 College Football Playoff. He became the first OU quarterback since Jack Mildren (1979) to surpass 1,000 rushing yards in a season.

Hurts rushed for 954 yards in 2016 as a freshman and 855 as a sophomore, averaging just over 5.5 yards per carry in the latter campaign. He eclipsed 100 yards six times in his career, with a single-game high of 146 yards against Ole Miss in 2016.

So what will Riley plan for his next QB? Hurts could provide room for more creativity.

From draws, to option plays and zone reads, Riley ensured OU’s playbook utilized Murray’s second dimension. And he wasn’t afraid of the cumulative effect that might have on his QB physically.

“We’re not going to let fear take control of us there,” Riley said when the 5-foot-10 Murray won the starting job last August. “We’re going to be aggressive and that’s going to be our mindset.”

That should be even less of a concern with the durable Hurts, who doesn’t have Murray’s speed, but at 6 foot 2, 218 pounds would be OU’s biggest starting quarterback since Blake Bell. The Big 12 defenses awaiting his downhill run style won’t tout the size of those he faced in the SEC.


Hurts totaled at least 15 carries in seven games at Alabama, and in four games he ran for 19 times or more.


He was effective enough with the ball in his hands that Nick Saban utilized him whenever possible, even after Tua Tagovailoa assumed the QB job. Hurts lined up at receiver and at times received handoffs from the backfield.


After playing for three different offensive coordinators in Tuscaloosa, Hurts is uniquely positioned to adapt to whatever Riley puts in front of him.


While that will surely include taking care of the ball in the passing game and delivering on-target throws deep down field, OU’s offense figures to lean on the QB run game for a second straight season.


“I’m just playing ball,” Hurts said before the 2017 national title game. “If it so happens to be that I have to make a play on my legs then I make the play.


“If it’s hard to catch me, then I guess it is.”

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