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Jalen Hurts’ Pocket Presence is the X-Factor Alabama Will Need in Auburn

Cedric Mason - Touchdown Alabama Magazine

Like them or not, Auburn fans are some of the most raucous in the sporting world. Playing in Jordan-Hare Stadium is never an easy task, just ask last year’s eventual National Champs. The Deshaun Watson-led Clemson Tigers came into last year’s game as heavy favorites, but quickly realized it would not be just given to them. Ultimately, they clawed their way to a tough 19-13 victory, but a huge part of that win could be accredited to their veteran at quarterback.

When Auburn is at their best defensively it takes an elite quarterback to grab a win. This year’s edition of the Iron Bowl looks like it could be more of the same, putting a whole lot of pressure on the sophomore, Jalen Hurts. A tested, experienced, Jalen Hurts that has proven his worth in big games over and over again.

When Nick Saban and his players step foot in Auburn this weekend they will do so with the sound of 100,000+ fans screaming loud enough to make them go hoarse for a week. This, of course, is far from new territory for a team so used to the giant target a #1 ranking puts on your back, but still a challenge nonetheless.

If adversity strikes early as it very well could, the Tide will need their leaders to do what they do best. Of those leaders, none will be as needed as Jalen Hurts and his calm-but-confident demeanor. Fortunately for Alabama, Hurts’ development under Brian Daboll has been astronomical, and his pocket presence is becoming that of a savvy veteran.

With most of this year’s games being out of hand by halftime, and Saban’s desire to get Tua Tagovailoa game experience, Hurts has not been tasked with the load he was a season ago. That said, he has still put up impressive – and very improved – numbers. He has completed 61.2% of his throws for 1,828 yards and 14 touchdowns while throwing just one interception. His rushing totals have also been impressive, as he has racked up 686 yards and eight more scores on 119 carries.

More importantly than the numbers, though, is the leadership he shows when adversity strikes. Down seven points in the fourth quarter at Mississippi State, he lead game-tying and game-winning drives to escape Starkville undefeated. His fourth quarter scampers against LSU and Clemson last season, in addition to rallying the team from a 24-0 deficit in Ole Miss, are even better examples.

Even with the injuries on defense there is still a large number of elite players that will come out ready to play. Where Jalen goes, the team will go. If Hurts is able to have himself a good game, against one of the best defenses the Tide has faced, Alabama can overcome its ugly bunch of injuries in a tough road environment.

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