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Critics are loud, but UA’s Jalen Hurts will have an answer versus Clemson

Mark J. Rebilas - USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes he can be standoffish and there are moments where his responses in interview can seem dry, but one cannot question the focus Jalen Hurts has as a quarterback. 

No matter if its social media, national media pundits or even fans that want to have their cake and eat it too, everyone has an opinion on the sophomore from Texas and it usually stems from his outlook in the passing game.

Despite the amount of clutch performances he has made in certain matchups, the lack of seeing a massive improvement is what’s causing the critics to rise. 

He was not the reason for the University of Alabama’s loss to Clemson in January and he certainly was not the primary issue for the fall versus Auburn; however, a national championship seems to be the lone thing that will get a lot of people to see how valuable Hurts truly is.  

In talking with members of the Crimson Tide’s media group, the 2016 Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Year knows what he is up against. While he understands what must be done in the College Football Playoff semifinal, he also continues to possess strong confidence. 

“I ain’t perfect… Michael Jordan said it the other day ‘You don’t lose, you learn. ‘So, I don’t lose, I learn.”- Hurts said last week  

Whether one choses to believe or not, Hurts enters the playoff with the most experience of the four quarterbacks involved. This will be the first endeavor for Jake Fromm of Georgia and Kelly Bryant of Clemson playing in this venue, and for Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma, it will be his second time since the 2015-16 semifinal versus Clemson – when the Sooners were defeated. 

Making comparisons is never a wise thing, especially when the basis of the argument is missing some marquee components. It’s fair to place much respect on Greg McElroy, AJ McCarron and Jacob Coker for winning national titles; nevertheless, one must keep in mind that all three encountered a year in which they were able to sit and learn.

With Hurts being the Tide’s best option in the 2016 season, the 6-foot-2 specimen had to go through a trial by fire situation.  

His decision to quote Michael Jordan, another person that hates losing more than he enjoys winning, shows how much Hurts cares about this program and winning at all cost. 

He’s accounted for 23 touchdowns and one interception in 12 games and according to Nick Saban, he desires to see more done in the passing attack from players outside of Hurts.  

“We have had the same goal with the passing game,” Saban said.  

“We want to have great balance in our offense. We have really good skill guys. We want to make explosive plays with those guys. We have to execute all phases of the passing game better. Whether it’s the quarterback’s presence in the pocket in terms of reading, getting to the second read at times and executing the plays as they are designed. Same thing with pass protection, same thing with pass routes, just the overall efficiency is everyone’s responsibility and we need to improve.” 

After last season’s semifinal game against Washington, I had the opportunity to speak to both linebacker Jamey Mosley and safety Deionte Thompson.

The two spoke on Hurts’ leadership, and with it being a year later, the same respect for him then remains a factor now at Alabama. 

“The guy is growing up before our eyes, “Mosley said of Hurts. 

“He’s a Texas boy,” Thompson added.  

“This is what Texas boys do. He is a product of his environment and is one heck of a football player. He’s got a great family and he is always ready to perform. He will have a bright future.” 

Having the screensaver of Clemson holding the national title trophy was pure motivation, but now Hurts can open up a new year by avenging that mistake at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. 

Alabama will battle the Tigers in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2018. 

Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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