Oklahoma football: So what if Jalen Hurts doesn’t win the Heisman?

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01: Jalen Hurts #2 of the Alabama Crimson Tide and head coach Nick Saban celebrate thier win after the AllState Sugar Bowl against the Clemson Tigers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01: Jalen Hurts #2 of the Alabama Crimson Tide and head coach Nick Saban celebrate thier win after the AllState Sugar Bowl against the Clemson Tigers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Oklahoma football quarterback Jalen Hurts doesn’t deserve all the preseason pressure — nor many of the questions, for that matter — that is being placed on his ample shoulders.

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The fact that the Alabama graduate transfer played three seasons at Alabama for Nick Saban — considered the top college football coach on the planet, and it’s not even close — and has played in three consecutive College Football Playoff national championship games, speaks volumes. Now he has moved on and landed with the team and coach who has produced the last two Heisman Trophy winners, not to mention the No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick in each of the last two season.

Why wouldn’t Hurts’ name naturally score high on the 2019 Heisman Watch List.

Make no mistake, it wasn’t the luck of the draw that the starting quarterback in Bama’s 2017 national championship win over Georgia, chose Oklahoma as the place he wanted to be to close out his celebrated college career. Hurts was clearly the cream of the crop of the quarterbacks who were on the move last winter through the infamous NCAA transfer portal.

Hurts was one of 12 quarterbacks, according to Sports Illustrated,  who transferred from one Power 5 program to another in 2019 and who could start for their new team this season. His arrival in Norman comes at a perfect time for the Sooners. His leadership and experience will provide a relatively seamless transition at the quarterback position, while the country’s No. 1 quarterback recruit in 2019, Spencer Rattler, develops under Hurts and is afforded the valuable time to become better acclimated to the college game and Lincoln Riley’s Air Raid offense.

Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray both put up record-setting numbers for Oklahoma on their way to winning back-to-back Heismans. After Mayfield’s celebrated 2017 season, no one thought Murray would come close to matching his predecessor’s performance. That may have been all the motivation the athletic magic-man Murray needed to prove his critics wrong. Murray’s numbers not only were equivalent to what Mayfield accomplished in his final season, but were even better in some areas (for example, his 1,001 rushing yards.)

While it is not likely that Hurts will deliver the video game-like  numbers that were regularly associated with Mayfield and Murray, he probably won’t have to given all the talented offensive weapons he will have at his ready disposal with the Sooners. Not that he didn’t have that same level of talent at Alabama.

Oklahoma Sooners Football
Oklahoma Sooners Football /

Oklahoma Sooners Football

Here’s the difference, though. The Big 12 doesn’t play defense like that regularly associated with the SEC. As a result, the talented Sooner receivers are able to get open, which will make it easier for Hurts to complete passes he had to thread into tighter windows in the SEC.

The book on Hurts is that he is more of a threat running with the ball than he is when he puts it in the air, but you don’t throw for 5,600 yards and 48 career touchdowns if you can’t throw the ball. Hurts is actually a much better passer than some experts give him credit for, and he has become more accurate every year out. His freshman season, Hurts completed only 63 percent of his passes at Alabama. Last season, however, his completion accuracy improved to 73 percent.

Hurts and Murray are both dual-threats at the quarterback position, but how their skills and strengths are best incorporated into the offense are very different.

Murray was the Sooners’ second leading rusher a year ago, becoming the first OU quarterback to run for over 1,000 yards in a season since Jack Mildren in 1971. Murray’s speed and athleticism compare more to the running style of a slot receiver. Hurts’ build and strength (in a 6-foot, 1-inch, 2019-pound frame) makes him more like a running back when he tucks the ball and takes off.

For Hurts to break all precedent and become the third consecutive Oklahoma quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy, he is going to have to put up numbers like have never been seen before or are noticeably better than his former Alabama teammate, Tua Tagovailoa, and Clemson sophomore QB Trevor Lawrence, the two players considered to be the leading candidates in the 2019 Heisman race. That’s probably not a realistic expectation.

And it really doesn’t matter because Hurts can accomplish several things in his final collegiate season, regardless of what kind of individual numbers he puts up, that the two OU Heisman winners who preceded him weren’t able to get done:

  •  Go undefeated (either in the regular season or overall)
  • Win a College Football Playoff game
  • Win the national championship

If Hurts could lead Oklahoma to an eighth national championship — and perhaps a win over his former team en route to the title – I can assure you what happens in the Heisman race will matter not to either Hurts, his Sooner teammates and coaches, or Sooner fans. There is no comparison between the two. Although winning a national championship should also put Hurts in strong Heisman consideration.

Perhaps the biggest attribute Hurts brings with him to Oklahoma — even more than his proven performance on the football field, playing for one of the best two programs in the country — is his leadership. Sooner players will tell you that Hurts’ leadership was felt throughout the first day he walked in the locker room.

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The Sooners recognize that the former Alabama quarterback has been where they want to go — a College Football Playoff national championship game — and three times at that. If Hurts can lead his new team to the promised land, his Sooner legacy will be forever enshrined.