Alabama Football: Is Jalen Hurts the next Le’Veon Bell?

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09: Quarterback Jalen Hurts
TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09: Quarterback Jalen Hurts /

This season’s national championship game has put doubt in the minds of some Alabama football fans. Is Jalen Hurts better as a quarterback or running back?

It has to be addressed. There is no denying it. The elephant in the room is wearing crimson and has been the starting quarterback for Alabama football for two straight seasons. For how much longer? That remains to be seen.

Sophomore Jalen Hurts led the Crimson Tide to the national championship game for two seasons in a row. Yet, his performance on Monday night highlighted the argument that many Hurts haters have spewed since he was a freshman. The eye test seemed to show that Hurts has trouble pulling the trigger on passes when he is under pressure.

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Hurts completed three of eight passes for just 21 yards against Georgia. The Bulldogs have a great defense, but a quarterback does need to take some chances down the field at some point. Many reads were quickly ended by Hurts tucking the ball and running, for which he earned 47 yards on just six carries.

After backup Tua Tagovailoa was brought in to replace Hurts in the second half, and went on to stardom by bringing Alabama back from the deep depths of despair, one could not help but wonder about Hurts’ future. However, Hurts’ longest run of the night may have shed some light on what he decides to do.

As one play broke down in the first half, Hurts was able to make it into a 31-yard run for a first down. It wasn’t so much the amount of yards that Hurts earned which make it important as it was the way that he did it. It was smooth, like watching an ice skater in slow motion sliding through the defensive line. He was so upright in his stance, and yet the Bulldogs couldn’t lay so much as a finger on him.

If one has watched a lot of Alabama football games, that running style is nothing new. Hurts has been slipping around blocks to run to daylight many times. He allows the blocks to form, judges which gap has the most space and explodes to it with such grace. He doesn’t need to lower the shoulder down when he runs because that’s not his style.

It’s much more of a style that fits Pittsburgh Steelers star running back Le’Veon Bell of the National Football League. Bell is notorious for slipping behind blockers and gaining a ton of yards without looking like he had to put much effort into it. He’s not a wrecking ball as much as he’s a gazelle when he rushes the ball.

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Meanwhile, Hurts’ resume screams wildcat quarterback, rather than a pocket passer. Hurts has 21 touchdowns rushing the ball himself to 40 touchdowns through the air. He has averaged 5.2 yards per carry in two seasons, and he is oftentimes the team’s leading rusher by the end of each game.

Does that mean that Hurts should be convinced to play something other than quarterback? Try telling that to any quarterback. The QB position is like the captain of the ship, he is the pivot who is used to steering his shipmates in the right direction. Go ahead and tell the captain that maybe he should be following orders instead of making the decisions. One may be found guilty of mutiny in Hurts’ eyes.

Tua Time may have captivated the Alabama football fans enough to want him running the offense, but that doesn’t mean Hurts has to stick around for it. Either he will compete for starting QB position or he may leave to be the starter at another school. However, the same question will come up about whether he will throw the ball when he needs to do so or will he tuck the ball and run.

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Maybe if Hurts sees the third option of learning a new position, say as a running back, he would see more playing time in crimson colors. Maybe, if he’s successful enough at it, he could be playing more in an NFL uniform, too.