TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Jalen Hurts is heading home with the nation’s top-ranked team and a track record that comes as no surprise to Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin.
The unflappable quarterback from Houston leads No. 1 Alabama into Kyle Field Saturday night as the biggest playmaker on an offense loaded with them.
Hurts has run the offense with precise efficiency. He’s one of the Southeastern Conference’s leading rushers and, oh by the way, hasn’t thrown a single interception.
Sumlin wasn’t surprised the son of a Texas high school coach was doing so well as a freshman last season, much less now.
“I’ve known his father for a long time from my days at the University of Houston, his dad being the coach at Channelview even before he was in high school,” the Aggies coach said. “Obviously there’s a relationship there with the family. As I said last year, I wasn’t surprised by Jalen’s success.
“His demeanor lends itself to being successful. He’s never too high, he’s never too low. Being a power lifter, he’s a lot stronger than a lot of people knew that didn’t know his background. His leadership qualities and his success come as no surprise to us.”
For his part, Hurts said his college choices came down to Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Alabama. While the season has gone exceedingly well with a series of blowout wins, Hurts has also watched from afar as his home city and state endured the impact of Hurricane Harvey.
Now, he’s heading back to the area, if only for a brief stay.
“The hurricane, my city’s always on my mind,” Hurts said. “Going to the field, a lot’s on my mind. At the end of the day, I know how to kind of cancel stuff out and lock in, lock in on the game. But definitely, I haven’t forgotten about the hurricane.”
He hasn’t let that, or anything else, faze him on the field.
After leading Alabama to the national championship game as a freshman, Hurts has picked up where he left off, this time under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. The 6-foot-2, 218-pounder is the most prolific runner in a backfield with three five-star recruits at tailback, dangerous in the open field but also with the strength of a high school power lifter. Video from those days shows him squatting 500 pounds and bench-pressing 275.
Hurts hasn’t passed a whole lot, not reaching 20 attempts in a game yet this season with Alabama mostly building big leads and coasting. Hurts has made some big plays passing — like touchdown passes of 78 and 52 yards against Colorado State — but what he hasn’t done is equally important: Make costly mistakes.
Hurts hasn’t thrown an interception this year or in his last 169 attempts dating back to last season’s Auburn game.
“As you can see, he’s really taken control of our offense, making great downfield throws, commanding the line of scrimmage, managing the game clock really well,” Alabama tight end Hale Hentges said. “As we progress further into the season, he’s done a better and better job of just being a complete quarterback and hopefully we can keep that up.”
Hurts has three 100-yard rushing games already this season while none of the tailbacks have picked up one yet .
He flashed that ability with a 37-yard fourth quarter touchdown in last season’s Texas A&M game. He also was intercepted twice, miscues he’s avoided so far as a sophomore.
Hurts passed for two touchdowns and ran for a third in the first half of a 66-3 win last weekend over Mississippi .
“He just seems to be efficient to me,” Ole Miss coach Matt Luke said. “It almost looks effortless at times, but when he’s out in the open field, people miss tackles on him. When he had throws he made them. (When) he had people open, he hit them.”
Now, Hurts heads to Texas trying to help keep the Tide rolling. Family members will be in attendance, though father Averion Hurts handles all the ticket requests.
Hurts will worry about visiting after the game.
“At the end of the day, I could care less who’s at the game,” he said. “At the end of the day, the game’s going to go on if they show up or not. I have to go play, that’s just how I was raised.”