Jalen Hurts had a decision to make following the conclusion of the 2018 college football season.
Alabama’s former starting quarterback had his position usurped by Tua Tagovailoa. Hurts, who wanted to finish his college career as a starter, needed to choose where he would transfer. Early options included Miami and Maryland, where two of Alabama’s 2018 offensive staffers had taken up new roles, respectively. Quarterbacks coach Dan Enos had taken the same position at Miami, and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley had been named head coach at Maryland.
But it was Alabama coach Nick Saban who steered Hurts toward his ultimate 2019 destination: Oklahoma, whom the Tide had beaten 45-34 in the 2018 College Football Playoff semifinal.
Saban detailed Hurts’ decision in a Sunday interview with the Philadelphia Eagles:
“And I remember him coming into me and saying (he) could go to Miami because the quarterback coach had gone to Miami as the offensive coordinator — the quarterback coach here, Dan Enos,” Saban said in the interview. “Mike Locksley got the head coaching job at Maryland. ‘I could go to Maryland or I could go to Oklahoma.’
“I said ‘Jalen, where do they have the best players?’” Saban said. “Because he felt more comfortable going where he knew these guys. And he said ‘Well, I think they have the best players at Oklahoma.’ I said we just played them, and they have some pretty good players on offense too.”
While Saban was certainly correct in his assessment of Oklahoma’s roster, it certainly helped that third-year coach Lincoln Riley already had a sterling record with quarterbacks. His offenses produced consecutive Heisman Trophy winners in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray in 2017 and ’18, respectively. Like Mayfield, Murray would go on to be a No. 1 overall draft pick.
“That’s no disrespect to anybody else, the guys that worked here and did a great job here, it’s what’s best for you,” Saban said. “That’s how you have to make this decision right now. He did it and I think did a great job for Oklahoma.”
Hurts certainly continued that string of success in Norman in 2019. He enjoyed career-highs in completion percentage (69.2 percent, minimum 100 passing attempts), passing yards (3,851), adjusted yards per pass attempt (12.2), passing touchdowns (32), rushing yards (1,298) and rushing touchdowns (20). He finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting behind LSU’s Joe Burrow and led the Sooners to a third consecutive berth in the Playoff.
Hurts eventually became a second-round selection (No. 53 overall) by Philadelphia, where he figures to learn behind starter Carson Wentz.