OU football: Jalen Hurts' rave reviews should thrill Sooner Nation
The stands were nearly empty and a defense was nowhere to be seen.
Nevertheless, what Jalen Hurts did last weekend was impressive.
The Oklahoma quarterback was serving as a counselor at Elite 11, a camp for select quarterbacks expected to one day be college stars. The youngsters do most of the throwing, but eventually, the college players helping out get to show what they can do.
A month away from the start of practice, Hurts showed he's not the same quarterback he was last season, news that should delight Sooner Nation, worry rival fans and make everyone wonder if there’s anything Lincoln Riley can’t do with a quarterback.
Wearing a gray long-sleeve shirt, navy shorts, and white and black cleats, Hurts went through a pro-day simulation. There all sorts of dropbacks and rollouts and throws to receivers running various routes. A few times, Hurts faced some pressure — a coach ran at him with a padded blocking shield — but there were no defenders to dodge, no defenses to read.
But the 20 throws Hurts made turned heads.
“You can dismiss some of what you see in a T-shirt-shorts workout,” NFL analyst Bucky Brooks said in a tweet, “but I’m really intrigued with Jalen Hurts after watching him work out at Elite 11 and talking to him about QB play.
“Much better than the narrative suggests.”
I don’t think the narrative Brooks referenced is the one attached to Hurts as a college quarterback. Everyone knows the guy is a winner. He was at Alabama whether as a starter (26-2) or a backup (saved the Crimson Tide’s backside last season in the SEC Championship Game). He is expected to continue that same level of success at OU.
But as a pro, Hurts isn’t expected to do much at all.
Look at what draft gurus have to say about pro quarterback prospects — and take their word for what it’s worth — and you’ll see Hurts behind guys like Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa and Jake Fromm. The signalcallers from Oregon, Alabama and Georgia are superb. But Hurts is also behind the likes of James Morgan, Case Cookus and Jacob Knipp.
Serious bonus points if you know where those three play.
(Florida International, Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado respectively are your answers.)
It’s not just that Hurts isn’t among most analysts’ top five pro prospects playing college quarterback right now. He’s not in most top 10s or 15s. Granted, this is expected to be a loaded draft class at quarterback, but Hurts is a guy who has been well down the pecking order.
What happened a week ago might start to change that.
Now, it’s just one workout, and as Brooks, the NFL analyst, intimated with the final words of his tweet — “File it away” — Hurts must build on what he did. He’ll have to make pinpoint throws of all varieties in games this fall. He’ll need to improve his pocket presence from his Alabama days. He’ll have to stretch the field like he rarely did in Tuscaloosa.
If he does that, it’s good for his NFL stock.
But it’d be great for the Sooners, too.
OU has played at historic levels these past four seasons because of quarterbacks who were extremely accurate no matter the throw. Short. Intermediate. Deep. Didn't matter for Baker Mayfield or Kyler Murray.
Hurts didn't arrive in Norman with a history of great downfield accuracy. Short stuff was good. Intermediate, too. But the long stuff just wasn't in his arsenal.
If that Elite 11 workout is any indication, that sure looks to be changing.
At one point, Hurts rolled to his right and threw a pass that was across his body and slightly off his back foot. The ball went 55 yards in the air and dropped perfectly in a receiver’s hands.
Now, I’m not here to suggest Hurts is going to win the Heisman and be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft because of a couple dozen good throws. Riley hasn't even named Hurts the starter yet. But if Hurts is impressing NFL types, that starting spot seems even more of a foregone conclusion.
Now the question becomes how good Hurts and the Sooners can be. Throw the deep stuff with consistency, and the offense will be in a great place.
So, too, will Jalen Hurts.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.