Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts should not feel like his starting spot is under siege heading into the 2017 season. This, despite the fact that freshman and star recruit Tua Tagovailoa does appear to be the real deal.
The thing with Hurts is that he's also the real deal, and head coach Nick Saban has made it clear in the lead up to fall practices that he is indeed "the guy" for the Crimson Tide.
That's not to say Tagovailoa won't get his opportunity to play early on, but Saban has thrown the full weight of his endorsement behind Hurts and that likely won't change any once the 2017 season kicks off.
Saban is high on Tagovailoa, but he recently made it clear that there's no quarterback controversy at Alabama, according to reporting done by Charlie Potter of 247Sports.
"Tua is a very, very good player. We're glad to have him in the program, and he's someone who needs to play some, aight," Saban said. "Now, I'm not creating a quarterback controversy here because Jalen Hurts is our starting quarterback. He was the SEC Player of the Year last year.
"... I think we want Jalen to develop into a quarterback who can be multifaceted, in terms of being a great runner and passer, and I think our offense will reflect that this year."
While it wouldn't be surprising to see Tagovailoa make an appearance in an early season blowout or two, Alabama is moving ahead with Hurts, and for good reason. In just his freshman season, Hurts led the Crimson Tide all the way to the CFP National Championship game, showing the poise and grace of a much older and experienced quarterback. He's a threat for Alabama both with his arm and with his legs, and he's clearly a leader the Crimson Tide can rely on in an effort to make it back to the title game once again.
In fact, Saban may have hamstrung Hurts a bit last year. Heading into 2017, though, look for him to open up Alabama's offense in an effort to open up Hurts and his true play-making ability. That's something he also recently talked about, as reported by Potter.
"I think the goal in the offseason for Jalen was all about becoming a more efficient and effective and consistent passer," Saban said. "And that's not that he couldn't do it a year ago. I think we were a little hesitant to and a little risk aversive in how we tried to develop him and what we asked him to do in that role, and he certainly did a fantastic job for us and make a lot of plays in a lot of ways.
"But that's the one thing in this offseason that if we can create a little more balance by being a little more efficient in the passing game, I think that would help us be a better offensive team."
Saban is mainly talking about passing efficiency, but if you read between the lines it's clear that Alabama would like to open things up a bit more for Hurts.
No, the Crimson Tide's offense will never look like Texas Tech or (insert your favorite Big 12 school here), but considering all that Hurts can do through the air as well as in the read-option game, it wouldn't be surprising to see Saban trust him with a bit more.
After all, he has a run to the championship under his belt and now another focused offseason with the program.
Hurts is poised to be not just one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC, but one of the best in the nation as well.
Now all Saban needs to do is let him loose and watch the results.
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