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Jalen Hurts and the race for the Heisman

Andy Altenburger/Icon Sportswire

Remember the stereotype about Alabama quarterbacks? They’re nothing but game managers and pose no real threat to a defense.

Well, that conception is being shredded to pieces by someone nobody thought would ever start at quarterback for Nick Saban: a true freshman.

Jalen Hurts has had his share of freshman moments and mistakes this year, but his poise and demeanor and overall play have been nothing short of brilliant. Most importantly, he’s led Alabama to a 7-0 record, including four wins over ranked opponents.

After a stellar performance against Tennessee, Hurts played his way into the lobby of the Heisman discussion, but another strong performance on the big stage against Texas A&M could bring him into the main ballroom.

The first case made for any Heisman candidate is a simple look at the numbers, and Hurts’ aren’t far off the other top quarterbacks on most Heisman lists.

For example, Hurts has 178 more passing and 64 more rushing yards than Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, although Hurts has played in seven games to Barrett’s six.

Compared to Deshaun Watson, who has also played seven games, Hurts falls short in passing yards and touchdowns (1950-20 to 1385-9). However, Hurts nearly doubles Watson in rushing yards (498-259) and has eight rushing scores to Watson’s one.

Still, no Heisman discussion should be had without mention of Lamar Jackson and Hurts’s stats don’t compare to his, but neither does anybody else. The Heisman race is Jackson and everybody else, but the numbers suggest Hurts deserves to be mentioned in the “everybody else” category

One thing Hurts has on his side unlike any other candidate is upside. Find a player who has improved more from Week 1 until now than Hurts has as a true freshman. There is no reason to assume Hurts has peaked, just as there is no reason think his team may have peaked.

No other member of the Heisman discussion has the same room for improvement that Hurts does, and if he continues to improve each week as he has thus far this season, then we could be seeing a completely different player in late November and through the postseason.

History, of course, is not on Hurts’ side considering no true freshman has ever won the Heisman, but consider this: Before 2008, no sophomore has ever won the Heisman either. Since then, not only have two sophomores won (Sam Bradford and Mark Ingram), but also two redshirt freshmen (Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston).

Anyone who has watched Hurts play this season can tell he isn’t the average true freshman, including Saban who was highly complimentary of his quarterback earlier in the week.

“Just like little kids, (true freshmen) go from toy to toy to toy, right? When they’re three years old, five years old, whatever,” Saban said, per Al.com’s Matt Zenitz. “They’ve got no focus, no concentration. It’s hard for them to stick with things. We deal with the same thing when we’ve got young players. They can’t stay as focused as the juniors and the seniors on all the little details – every day in practice and preparation and all that type of stuff.

“Jalen is probably as mature and does it as well as anybody I’ve ever seen at his age. But still, we’re trying to help bring him along in all these circumstances and all these situations. There’s nobody on our team that wants to do that more than he does. So he sort of welcomes it. He’s very self-critical. So when you bring something up to him, it’s kind of like, ‘I get that.’ Maybe it’s because his dad was a coach. I don’t really know. But he’s one of the easiest guys to manage in that circumstance that I’ve ever been around at his age.”

Some will argue that no Alabama player should be in the Heisman race because there is no one player carrying such a ridiculously talented team. But isn’t it that much more impressive that a true freshman has emerged to lead such a team?

Don’t be afraid to talk about Jalen Hurts and the Heisman.

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