It's a new day for Jalen Hurts as Oklahoma's quarterback prepares for his latest test
After transferring from Alabama, Hurts is on his fifth offensive coordinator in as many seasons
Jalen Hurts wants you to know his journey. The Alabama-turned-Oklahoma quarterback brought it up unsolicited last month in meeting with media for the first time in Norman, Oklahoma.
"This is my fifth offensive coordinator of my career," Hurts said.
You don't know whether to pity the kid or admire that journey. Maybe some of both. In his trek from SEC Freshman of the Year (2016) to national champion (2017) to Alabama backup (2018), a lifetime of memories have been stockpiled.
They include a national championship ring, being yanked in the same game he earned that ring, and a transfer to OU, home of the last two Heisman Trophy winners.
That's a glimpse of what spring practice is about. Getting to know the coaches, your new teammates, the plays … your life.
Throw in the new transfer climate and nothing seems to be the same. Three-and-half months ago, Hurts was playing in a College Football Playoff semifinal against the team he's now leading.
In that sense, for Hurts, A-Day has turned into … a new day.
"This whole situation is unique," he said.
Hurts moving into new digs is just one of the storylines on the busiest spring practice weekend of 2019. On Friday and Saturday, there will be a combined 58 spring games -- 51 one of them on Saturday alone.
We'll know little for sure, but at least it will be nice to have football again. This weekend's highlights:
Both Alabama and Auburn will stage their traditional A-Days. We get a sneak peak at Nick Saban's "rebuild." Watch the defensive line, which may the most inexperienced since 2012. That group had "only" two current NFL players on it. At Auburn, 29-year-old Kenny Dillingham is the new offensive coordinator, but once again, Gus Malzahn will be calling plays.
Notre Dame had a fine undefeated regular season but was outclassed by Clemson in the Cotton Bowl semifinal. ND can reach the playoff again. Brian Kelly simply needs faster, better players to make a run.
Last year at this time, Jimbo Fisher was just getting to know his players and his staff. Entering Year 2, Fisher is set at quarterback. So set that Kellen Mond is the first clear-cut starter since 2013 to return since Johnny Manziel coming off his Heisman-winning season.
The usual disclaimer: Little of what you see this weekend will be applicable to the regular season. Some fifth-string running back will go for 200 yards. A walk-on defensive back will get a pick six.
Mostly, spring games are known for what you won't see -- much of the playbook. Coaches will be as vanilla as possible on both sides of the ball because of TV and because opponents watch TV and a lot of spring games being on TV.
Still, watching Hurts in an Oklahoma uniform will be a curious treat. His final year of eligibility comes after backing up Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama. In 2018, Hurts could have gone to 90 percent of the nation's programs and started.
He chose to stick it out with the best program of the modern age. Hurts just wasn't starting. His decision became one of the biggest storylines of 2018. When he took the field for the warm-up in Alabama's fifth game, the crowd went nuts. Because of the new redshirt rule, Hurts could have transferred and saved a year of eligibility by leaving after four games.
But somehow he got better playing behind the Heisman runner-up. We know because, in the SEC Championship Game, Hurts might have been the difference. With Tagovailoa being bothered by an injured leg, Hurts came in and threw the game-winning touchdown with 68 seconds remaining.
Is it possible Hurts got better by backing up? It certainly looked like it.
"I think I'm wiser, I'm better," Hurts said. "I'm stronger for it. I definitely know that I didn't get the snaps. I had limited time there, but I'm a new place now, new opportunity."
For the record, Hurts' previous offensive coordinators at Alabama were Mike Locksley, Brian Daboll, Steve Sarkisian and Lane Kiffin. Cale Gundy and Bill Bedenbaugh are co-offensive coordinators at OU, but everyone knows coach Lincoln Riley is one of the game's best player callers.
Hurts keeps reminding anyone who will listen he is a coach's son. Averion Hurts made headlines last summer telling Bleacher Report that his son would "be the biggest free agent in college football history."
The coach of Channelview (Texas) High School wasn't far wrong. After consecutive Heismans by Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, there doesn't figure to be much drop off at all at OU if any.
How many ready-made starters this good fall into anyone's lap? It's just that Hurts was judged by an Alabama standard. Insiders say he became too tentative, too concerned about turning it over. Of course, then came Tagovailoa.
"I know it's happening to a unique person," Hurts said. "I'm not your average Joe. I'm kind of built for these type of situations. There's never been anything that's been in my way that I couldn't overcome."
Given all that, learning a fifth offense with a fifth different coordinator in four seasons doesn't seem like such a big a task.
"Let's not think about it negatively," Hurts said. "I've had success with every coordinator I've had or coach I've had. I have multiple perspectives of looking at the game because I've had multiple coaches."
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