Alabama freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts joined the Crimson Tide a week before their National Championship bout against the Clemson Tigers last January. Once he arrived, Hurts was thrown into a crucial position: Simulating Clemson signal caller and Heisman finalist DeShaun Watson.
While it seemed like an daunting task to ask a true freshman to mimic such an important opposing player, Hurts passed with flying colors.
Now fast forward to 12 weeks into the 2016 College Football season. Hurts has become a national phenomenon.
A week after getting criticized as a not-so great passer against LSU, Hurts tore up the Mississippi State secondary. He threw for 347 yards and four touchdowns while completing 28 of his 37 passes in Alabama's 51-3 win over the Bulldogs. Hurts also added 100 yards and a score on 11 carries against the Bulldogs. The rookie signal caller virtually made an SEC team look like a Sun Belt unit. However, Hurts has been making every Alabama opponent look foolish, either through the air or on the ground.
The freshman has taken what is normally a boring Nick Saban offense to new heights. He has ran for 11 touchdowns, the most for any signal caller under Saban and is the first ever Tide player to have thrown for 300 yards and rush for 100 yards in the same game. On the season, Hurts has accumulated 2,032 yard and 16 touchdowns through the air (completing 64.2-percent of his passes) and 735 yards and 11 scores on ground.
Looking at Alabama's last three games--FCS opponent, Chattanooga, Auburn who has had its ups and downs on defense this year and more than likely Tennessee or Florida in the SEC Championship game, it's not ridiculous to see Hurts end up with 3,000-plus yards and 20-25 touchdowns through the air with 1,000-plus yards and 15-20 touchdowns on the ground. If the young signal caller is able to end up with those type of statistics, he could wind up in New York City as a Heisman finalist.
While those sort of numbers would get any player to the Big Apple, Hurts is probably a good year away from becoming a Heisman finalist.
Currently, the most prestigious individual award in college football will more than likely be handed to Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. And behind Jackson, it is probably Washington signal caller Jake Browning. Then following those two, there is a dozen players, Hurts included, who are contending to be a Heisman finalist. From Ohio State gunslinger J.T. Barrett to Texas running back D'Onta Foreman, all whom have had a great season so far.
However, then there is the case that maybe the trophy should be awarded to the nation's best team's player. Eric Crouch won the award just because he was Nebraska's quarterback in 2001 and Derrick Henry was awarded the trophy last year because he was the Tide's best player.
Can Hurts end up in New York? Yes. But he is probably one year to early for him to be on the top of the Heisman ballot.
The only special case would be if he did tremendous things against Auburn because doing well in rivalry games help boost a Heisman contender's chances. And that would mean the Iron Bowl would probably have to be too close for comfort for Alabama fans. Despite that, it's probably a year away before the nation see Hurts in New York and possibly lifting the Heisman.
And that's okay because, as of right now, it looks like Hurts may lead the Tide to back-to-back national championships. Which for him, Saban and Alabama fans everywhere, that is probably more important than a trophy.