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Jalen Hurts airs frustrations with coaching staff over handling of QB competition

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Although Nick Saban said at SEC media days it was the media who created his quarterback competition, it was not the media who chose to pull Jalen Hurts — to that point 26-2 as a starter — at halftime of the national championship in favor of true freshman Tua Tagovailoa. It was Saban who made that decision, his hand forced by the play on the field.

As we know, Hurts hit just 3-of-8 passes for 21 yards over the first two frames as the Tide carried a 13-0 deficit to Georgia into the locker room on that January night. Tagovailoa took over from there and led Alabama back for a 26-23 overtime win, completing 14 of his 24 throws for 166 yards with three scores and one pick, including the 41-yard knockout punch to Devonta Smith to win the game.

Ever since then, the the biggest quarterback battle of Saban’s 12-year tenure in Tuscaloosa has been on. And according to the incumbent, the die has been cast by the coaching staff.

“This whole spring ever since the game, (coaches) kind of wanted to let it play out and I guess didn’t think it was a thing to let it die down like there wasn’t something there,” Hurts said Saturday. “But that’s always been the elephant in the room. For me, no one came up to me the whole spring, coaches included, no one asked me how I felt.

“No one asked me what was on my mind. No one asked me how I felt about the things that were going on. Nobody asked me what my future held. That’s that. So now it’s like when we try to handle the situation now, for me, it’s kind of late, it’s too late, the narrative has already been created.”

Make no mistake: both Hurts and Tagovailoa want to play, and neither will be happy in not being the guy.

Tagovailoa revealed in March that he felt like transferring if he didn’t play in Alabama’s championship win over Georgia, asking his father if his USC offer was still on the table.

“Even throughout my football season, I wasn’t the starter,” Tagovailoa said at the time. “I wanted to leave the school. So I told myself if I didn’t play in the last game, which was the national championship game, I would transfer out. If I gave in, I don’t think I would have seen the end blessing of where I am now.”

The entire Tagovailoa family has moved from Hawaii to Alabama, and Tua’s younger brother, Taulia Tagovailoa, plays at Thompson High School in Alabaster, Ala., and is a 4-star member of Alabama’s 2019 class. The elder Tagovailoa son later clarified his comments as his feelings at the time, but it’s impossible to know how his reflection in March was clouded by the fact that he did indeed play against Georgia.

Hurts’s father, Averion Hurts, indicated in April his son could transfer if he doesn’t win the starting job. Here’s what the elder Hurts said to Bleacher Report this spring:

Coach Saban’s job is to do what’s best for his team. I have no problem with that,” Averion Hurts said. “My job is to do what’s best for Jalen—and make no mistake, Jalen is a quarterback, and he wants to play quarterback. He loves Alabama, loves Coach Saban and everything about that place. But he wants to play, and he will play…”

Averion stops mid-sentence because the idea of his son not playing for Alabama isn’t one he takes lightly. What if Jalen doesn’t win the job, he is asked?

He shakes his head slowly, answers begrudgingly. “Well, he’d be the biggest free agent in college football history.

So we know both quarterbacks, or at least their camps, have publicly entertained the thought of transferring if they don’t win the starting job. And only one of them will.

Saban said earlier this summer that Hurts told him the junior quarterback will graduate in December. “Jalen actually came to me and said … ‘I am going to be here. I am going to be here, I came here to get an education. I graduate in December, and I’m going to be here.’”

Given the grievances Hurts aired Saturday, it doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility at all that Hurts plays Alabama’s 2018 season as the backup and plays elsewhere in 2019 as a graduate transfer. In fact, that seems directly inside the realm of possibility at this moment.

 

As USC struggles, can Chip Kelly and UCLA seize an opportunity?

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No matter what happens this weekend, UCLA will not be going to a bowl game in the first season with Chip Kelly as a head coach. At 2-8, that end result was determined weeks ago. Despite taking a while to get things seemingly together, UCLA will meet with their crosstown rivals from USC this week, and the timing could not have been better for Kelly and the Bruins.

USC was officially ruled out of the running for the Pac-12 South Division last week as they fell to 5-5 this season. The pressure on head coach Clay Helton has seemed to be on the rise as frustrations about the Trojans continues to build this season. The possibility of a coaching change has become a bit of a popular talking point for some as college football gets the coaching carousel greased up and ready to go at full force. And with Notre Dame coming to Los Angeles next week with their own College Football Playoff hopes potentially on the line, this week against the Bruins feels like it could be a must-win game for USC.

That alone makes this a pretty important game for Kelly and UCLA as well, even more so than it already was destined to be by default. Kelly will have an opportunity to really stick it to his new rival with an opposing head coach under an increasing amount of pressure by putting USC’s own bowl hopes on the edge of a cliff, with the Irish coming to town to give the final nudge.

A win for Kelly would help give UCLA’s recruiting efforts an extra sales pitch to make. As UCLA is looking to build something, they could be responsible for potential changes going on at USC. USC is rarely going to lose out in the recruiting battles and the Trojans will always have quality recruiting hauls, but Kelly would benefit by having a head-to-head win against USC, and this year would be a great way to end his first season at UCLA.

UCLA DL Moses Robinson-Carr has been indefinitely suspended

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UCLA defensive lineman Moses Robinson-Carr has apparently been in the doghouse of Chip Kelly for a few weeks. The head coach of the Bruins confirmed to reporters today Robinson-Carr has been indefinitely suspended for violation of team rules.

The news of the suspension appears to answer some questions about his lack of availability in the last few weeks, as Kelly confirmed the suspension is a couple of weeks old. This would be the second time this season Robinson-Carr has been suspended by Kelly this season. Robinson-Carr was one of six players suspended by Kelly for UCLA’s season opener against Cincinnati.

Robinson-Carr previously played tight end and special teams for the Bruins, but he was converted to the defensive line to provide some depth. Robinson-Carr ha splayed in six games for UCLA this season.

UCLA faces rival USC this weekend.

Academics force App State’s Jermaine McDaniel to take sabbatical

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A familiar face in Appalachian State’s defensive line rotation early on in the season hasn’t been seen around of late, and now we know why.

Following practice Tuesday, Scott Satterfield confirmed that Jermaine McDaniel has left the football team as he focuses on getting his academic house in order.  The head coach did, though, leave the door open for the defensive end to return — if he decides to return to the sport.

“Well, No. 1, I love Jermaine,” Satterfield said according to the Winston-Salem Journal. “Awesome player for us. He just wants to focus on academics, and I’ll support him and whatever his decision is.

“That’s what he wanted to do, so we’ll just support him and wish him well finishing his academics and whatever career he decides to go into.”

The redshirt freshman played in the first six games of the 2018 season, recording a pair of sacks in that span.  However, he saw action in just one of the last four.

Despite missing all of that action, his two sacks are still tied for third on the Mountaineers.

2017 finalist Jonathan Taylor headlines Doak Walker Award semifinalists

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Not surprisingly, Jonathan Taylor will get another crack at claiming a piece of running back hardware.

Early Wednesday afternoon, Taylor was announced as one of the 10 semifinalists for the 2018 Doak Walker Award.  The Wisconsin sophomore was one of the three finalists for the 2017 award won by Stanford’s Bryce Love.  Despite the fact that Love returned for another season,  he’s not one of this year’s semifinalists as nagging injuries have hampered the senior all season long.

The nation’s top four backs in terms of rushing yards are represented, including Taylor (first, 1548 yards), Memphis’ Darrell Henderson (second, 1,446), Arizona State’s Eno Benjamin (third, 1,295) and Arizona’s J.J. Taylor (1,221).  Two others in the Top Ten — FAU’s Devin Singletary (sixth, 1,169), Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams (eighth, 1,159) — are included as well.

The other four to make the cut are Kentucky’s Benny Snell (11th, 1,089), Clemson’s Travis Etienne (13th, 1,076), Michigan’s Karan Higdon (18th, 1,005) and Boston College’s AJ Dillon (24th, 936).  Dillon moves up to ninth in yards per game (117) as he’s battled a leg injury for the last few weeks.

Higdon is the only senior in the group, while Benjamin, Dillon, Etienne and both Taylors are sophomores.  The other four are juniors.