Oklahoma Head Coach Lincoln Riley made the announcement Monday afternoon that many had been waiting to hear since January: Jalen Hurts will be the starting quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners in 2019.
Tanner Mordecai will back him up, with true freshman Spencer Rattler being the third in line, which is what most everyone expected would be the final outcome all along.
Riley claimed the competition was very close, even saying that it was the closest of the battles he had seen in his time at Oklahoma.
“I just thought that he (Hurts) was slightly better,” Riley said. “It was a good battle without a doubt and that will continue to be a very competitive room.”
So now that the formality of being named the starter has finally come to a head, just how good will Hurts be this year?
This season is obviously everything for the senior, any chance at an NFL career hinges on what he does this year under Riley. Certainly Hurts has come to the right place for that sort of thing, the last two Oklahoma quarterbacks did both go #1 in the NFL draft after all.
While Hurts is definitely going to be set up for success with the talent around him and the coach he has catering the offense to his skill set, the pressure is going to be immense as well trying to live up to the sensational standards set by Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.
Any Chance He is as Good as the Last Two?
Obviously, probably not. Jalen Hurts is extremely talented and is likely going to have a fabulous season, but fans hoping he will be Baker Mayfield/Kyler Murray part three could be disappointed a touch.
That does not in any way mean that Hurts won’t still have a big season. Mayfield and Murray had historically great campaigns the last two years that ended in Heisman trophies. To say he probably won’t have that level of a season is far from an insult.
He is not quite the passer that Mayfield or Murray was and he does not have the pure raw athleticism that Murray was able to dazzle everyone with. However, he showed both in the SEC Championship game against Georgia and in the Oklahoma Spring Game back in April that he can absolutely sling it.
When Hurts first started out at Alabama he was really a glorified game manager just trying to avoid mistakes to let the rest of the loaded Crimson Tide go to work and get wins. He clearly worked on his game a lot in the time spent backing up Tua Tagovailoa.
Baker Mayfield threw for 4627 yards and 43 touchdowns in 2017; Kyler Murray threw for 4361 yards and 42 touchdowns in 2018. Hurts is more than likely not going to be in the same ballpark as those ridiculous numbers, but will still be strong probably landing somewhere more in the 3,500 and 35 range.
How will Running Ability Fit In?
This is going to be really interesting to see, because while Kyler Murray was an absolutely freakish runner with his speed, most wouldn’t really classify him as a running quarterback. Murray is a pocket passer who just happens to be blazing fast and will use that ability with great success.
Hurts, meanwhile, is no stranger to designed run plays. He carried the ball 191 times his freshman season at Alabama for 954 yards and 13 touchdowns. He is essentially a running back who can also play quarterback.
How Riley, a disciple of the Mike Leach air raid at Texas Tech, will incorporate Hurts’ ground and pound ability is one of the more intriguing aspects of the 2019 Oklahoma Sooners.
Murray ran the ball 140 times last year for 1001 yards, albeit with a good chunk of those on scrambles. It’s hard to predict how many times Hurts will carry the ball but it seems hard to imagine it won’t be at least as much as Murray did and likely more.
What About the Offense as a Whole?
Make no mistake, the Sooners are going to once again put up a lot of points in 2019. As mentioned earlier, while Hurts is under a lot of pressure, he is a put in a great position to succeed.
Trey Sermon, Kennedy Brooks, and TJ Pledger form a great backfield to ease the load on the pass game. Then, when he is throwing it around, Hurts has one of the premier wide receivers in the entire country at his side in CeeDee Lamb, a top tier tight end in Grant Calcaterra, and a bevy of young receiving talent around those two with Charleston Rambo, Theo Wease, Trejan Bridges, and Jadon Haselwood among others.
The offense will probably take a slight dip from last season, but still should be one of the absolute best in the country and be putting up plenty of points to satisfy Sooner fans.
A potentially more featured run game may bring the points and outrageous stat lines down a tad, but it is hard to imagine they will be held under 35-40 points very often, if at all.
How About Jalen’s NFL Prospects?
Not to burst too many Sooner fans’ bubbles, but the odds of Jalen Hurts making it three straight #1 overall picks from OU next April are extremely low.
To be fair, though, before the season started nobody really expected Mayfield or Murray to get to that point either.
What doesn’t help Hurts is that this year’s quarterback crop is pretty solid. Obviously the headliner going into the draft will be the man who replaced Hurts at Alabama in Tagovailoa.
Then, you have Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert who was widely considered a very high prospect in last year’s draft before surprisingly deciding to return for another season with the Ducks. Jake Fromm from Georgia has also received a lot of NFL buzz, with most expecting him to be an early first round pick.
Many more names will be trying to improve their NFL stock this year as well including Jacob Eason, Sam Ehlinger, Shea Patterson, K.J. Costello, and many more.
Hurts can do a lot for himself this year to set himself up for an NFL future, but as of now he is behind a lot of guys on all the big boards.
However, as we have seen the past couple of years, a whole lot can change in just one season.