Oklahoma football: Jalen Hurts is the centerpiece but far from only piece

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 14: Jalen Hurts #1 of the Oklahoma Sooners warms up prior to a game against the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl on September 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 14: Jalen Hurts #1 of the Oklahoma Sooners warms up prior to a game against the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl on September 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

Jalen Hurts is getting exactly what he wanted when he came out on the other end of the transfer portal and landed in the Oklahoma football program.

The Alabama transfer wanted the chance to again be a starting quarterback and play for championships — national championships, that is. And what a better place to do that than where the last two Heisman winning quarterbacks have resided, leading the nation’s most prolific offense each of the past two seasons and in a program that has been to three of the last four College Football Playoffs.

Hurts hasn’t just fit in to Lincoln Riley’s explosive, high-scoring Air Raid offense, he may just be the perfect fit. In his very first game in a Sooner uniform, Hurts accounted for 508 yards of total offense (332 passing and 176 rushing) and six touchdowns. He is the first Oklahoma player to pass for more than 300 yards and run for over 150 yards in a single game.

Through three games, Hurts is averaging 293 passing and 125 rushing yards per game.

Remarkably, the Oklahoma signal-caller has more touchdowns (13) than incompletions (12) in Oklahoma’s first three games. He also has as many completions of 25-plus yards as incompletions.

At the quarter pole in the 2019 college football season, Hurts is the leading contender in the Heisman race, according to most college football experts. Of course, it is way too early to project who will finally emerge in the Heisman competition, but as it appears now, another Oklahoma quarterback is going to be battling it out for college football’s most prestigious individual award.

These incredible numbers are likely to regress some as the level of competition improves in Big 12 play, but it’s abundantly clear that the Sooners have come out a big winner in the offseason transfer sweepstakes.

"“The Lincoln Riley Finishing School for Quarterbacks has found another prized pupil, this one by way of Tuscaloosa,” writes ESPN’s Bill Connelly."

Without exception , the former Alabama quarterback has been the dominant force in each of Oklahoma’s nonconference wins this season, but it is not as if he is forcing the issue or playing outside of himself. He is simply taking what the defense gives him, and he is smart enough and good enough to make the opponent pay when the yards are there for the taking.

The OU running back corps was already one of best in the country even before Hurts arrived. Now with him in the mix as another formidable rushing option that needs to be accounted for, the Sooner ground game, which feeds the explosive Air Raid attack, is even more dangerous.

With an 80 percent completion rate (second in the nation to LSU’s Joe Burrow) and a quarterback rating of 250.2, Hurts has shown that he is more than capable as a passer, something that college experts have been critical of in assessing his quarterback skills and performance while at Alabama. Of course, the fact that the talented and deep Oklahoma wide receivers are very good at getting open improves the degree of difficulty.

With so many rushing and receiving weapons around him, Hurts does not need to shoulder the entire burden of the offense and feel that he has to win games by himself. He has a luxury at Oklahoma that most premier quarterbacks do not have: playmakers all over the field, outstanding talent at the skill positions and, importantly, a good offensive line that keeps getting better.

Keeping Hurts healthy is a priority and a key to the Sooners championship chances.

Expect Hurts, Oklahoma’s third starting quarterback in as many seasons, to continue to play within himself, utilizing his deep experience, football smarts and physical attributes to make sound decisions. When that happens, good results generally follow. He has so far, and the numbers are there as evidence.

Next. Sooners are 21st century championship pedigree. dark

At powerhouse programs like Oklahoma, the whole is always going to be greater than the sum of the individual parts. There is little question, though, that Hurts is a really big part of who the Sooners are and will be this season.