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Hurts So Good
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Talented transfer from 'Bama poised to step in at QB for Sooners
This time, no wait will be necessary.
Oklahoma has thrived with its last two transfer quarterbacks. Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray won a pair of Heisman Trophies, four Big 12 Conference championships, made three trips to the College Football Playoff, and set just about every OU quarterback record there is.
But Mayfield, a three-year starter, and Murray, his one-year successor, were both made to sit before they took snaps for the Sooners.
Jalen Hurts will not sit. He will not redshirt. He will not wait.
Hurts is the Sooners' latest transfer quarterback, and he’s easily the most accomplished.
While Mayfield and Murray were part-time starters as true freshmen at Texas Tech and Texas A&M, respectively, Hurts was a two-year starter at college football’s most elite program -- Alabama. He led the Crimson Tide to two national championship game appearances, had a 26-2 record as a starter, and as a backup, saved Bama's bacon in the 2018 SEC Championship Game victory over Georgia.
With Austin Kendall moving on to West Virginia, Tanner Mordecai coming off a redshirt season and Spencer Rattler not hitting campus until June, Hurts is ready, right now, to take the torch that burned so bright under Mayfield and Murray.
"(Hurts) certainly has the ability to be a really good leader for us," OU coach Lincoln Riley said on SoonerSports.com. "He's got to get in here and learn this team, learn this offense. He's got to get in here and compete for this quarterback job. There are a lot of steps ahead, but there's no doubt, this guy's been in some of the biggest and best games in college football here over the last few years."
Like Mayfield and Murray, Hurts started as a true freshman -- the first-ever true freshman QB to start for Nick Saban.
Unlike Mayfield and Murray, he took over the starting job in Week 2 his freshman season, and he didn't yield the job until the final game of his sophomore season, when Saban famously benched Hurts for Tua Tagovailoa to start the second half of the Tide's overtime victory over Georgia in the 2017-18 national championship game.
Mayfield started half the season at Tech in 2013, then transferred to OU and redshirted in 2014. Murray started three games at A&M in 2015, then transferred to OU, redshirted in 2016, backed up Mayfield in 2017 and became a two-sport star in 2018.
Hurts remained at Alabama for his junior season as Tagovailoa's backup. But when Tua got hurt in this year's SEC title game against the Bulldogs, it was Hurts who came off the bench and rallied his team with two fourth-quarter touchdowns -- one a pass to tie it, one a dramatic run to win it -- that sent Bama back to the playoff, where Saban's crew beat Riley's OU squad in an Orange Bowl semifinal in Miami.
Shortly after the Tide lost to Clemson in the national championship game, Hurts entered his name in the NCAA's new transfer portal as a graduate transfer, and soon after became a Sooner.
"Last year, I was fully invested in the University of Alabama," said Hurts. "And at the Orange Bowl, I was fully invested in beating OU and getting to the national championship. But now I'm part of the Sooner family and I'm thankful to be here."
OU originally recruited Hurts out of Channelview, Texas, where he was a unanimous 4-star prospect and the nation's No. 1 dual-threat QB, according to 247 Sports. But the allure of competing for the job as a true freshman at Alabama was impossible to pass up.
Hurts ranks second in school history among Bama QBs with 1,976 career rushing yards and holds the school record with 23 rushing touchdowns.
In his career in Tuscaloosa, Hurts accounted for 71 touchdowns (48 passing) and 7,602 yards total offense.
Murray rushed for 1,001 yards at OU last season, but Hurts is bigger and stronger and probably can figure into the OU running game more than Murray did. He has seven 100-yard rushing games in his career, running for 954 yards and 13 TDs as a freshman and 855 yards and eight TDs as a sophomore.
In 2016, Hurts was named SEC Freshman of the Year, freshman All-American (ESPN and USA Today) and was a finalist for the Manning Award as the nation's top quarterback. He completed 240 of 382 passes (62.8 percent) for 2,780 yards with 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
As a sophomore, Hurts completed 154 of 255 passes (60.4 percent) for 2,081 yards with 17 touchdowns and one interception.
As Tagovailoa's backup in 2018, Hurts played in 13 games, completing 51 of 70 throws (72.9 percent) with eight touchdowns and two interceptions to go with 167 yards and two TDs rushing.
Hurts' statistical achievements came despite playing for four different quarterback coaches and four different offensive coordinators in his three seasons at Alabama.
At OU, he'll be coached by one of the best in the business.
"There's a great foundation here at Oklahoma, and coach Riley does a great job," said the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Hurts. "He's very efficient in what he does. And for my last ride, my senior year, I want to be a part of it.
"I want to go out with a bang."
Riley is excited about the experience and tools Hurts brings to the program.
"I think he's really progressed as a thrower with a lot of the film I've watched this year. I see a very, very capable thrower, a very good athlete. He's strong," said Riley. "He's going to have much different build than a couple of these (quarterbacks) we've had the last few years. He knows how to prepare for those games, knows what to expect, all the buildup and being able to focus on what's really important.
"I don't think there's any doubt that's one of the things he brings to the table. There's nothing to replace having been in those games. I think it will help him individually. It's going to make a big difference."
(This story appears in Sooner Spectator's March 2019 Recruiting Issue. To read more or subscribe, call 405-364-4515)