Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts has officially entered the NCAA transfer portal, meaning other schools are now allowed to contact him.
The 2016 SEC Offensive Player of the Year has played in the last three College Football Playoff National Championship games with the Crimson Tide, but he lost his role as the team’s starting quarterback to Tua Tagovailoa during the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship, and Hurts will now likely finish his college career elsewhere as a grad transfer.
Here are some potential transfer destinations for Hurts.
The Sooners have produced the last two Heisman Trophy winners in quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. They’re going to have to replace Murray next season and Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley is one of the great offensive minds in the sport.
Oklahoma has made three of the last four College Football Playoff fields, so it’s a destination that would give Hurts the chance to win at the highest level of the sport like he did at Alabama.
The Sooners have returning quarterback Austin Kendall, a former four-star recruit who served as Murray’s backup last season, and they signed Spencer Rattler, the No. 1 pro-style quarterback prospect in the 2019 recruiting class, but neither has the experience or production of Hurts, which could allow him to win a potential quarterback competition.
Oklahoma also signed two of the top three wide receiver prospects in the country in Jadon Haselwood and Theo Wease, who will join 1,000-yard receiver CeeDee Lamb and the talented backfield duo of Kennedy Brooks and Trey Sermon. The skill position talent is in place for Oklahoma to defend its Big 12 title and make another run to the playoff with the right quarterback.
The Seminoles are interested in Hurts, according to SB Nation’s Bud Elliott. Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois announced Tuesday that he’s returning to school for his final year of eligibility.
While Francois has been in Tallahassee for the last four seasons, his numbers were pedestrian, in part because of a porous offensive line. He completed 57.3 percent of his passes for 2,731 yards, 6.9 yards per attempt, 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2018 as Florida State went 5-7.
The Seminoles would allow Hurts to spend his final year of college competing at the Power Five level at a school that won a national championship just six seasons ago. Florida State’s 2019 schedule kicks off with a neutral-site game against Boise State and the Seminoles play at Florida and Clemson, so Hurts would have the opportunity to play on some big stages if he chooses Florida State and wins the starting quarterback job.
Former TCU quarterback Shawn Robinson announced his decision to transfer to Missouri after suffering a season-ending injury in October. Sophomore Michael Collins started in the immediate aftermath of Robinson’s injury, completing 56 percent of his passes for 1,059 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions, before senior Grayson Muehlstein finished the season under center.
Long story short, TCU could use a quarterback, even if its second-best 2019 signee is four-star dual-threat quarterback Max Duggan.
The Horned Frogs recently had success with a Power Five transfer at quarterback with Kenny Hill, who spent two seasons at Texas A&M before finishing his career in Fort Worth. After an interception-prone redshirt junior season for TCU, Hill had a productive senior year in which he completed 67 percent of his passes for 3,152 yards, 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions, while rushing for five touchdowns.
TCU had a top-20 defense last season, according to the efficiency metrics of Football Outsiders’ S&P+ rankings, but its offense ranked 108th nationally, which prevented the Horned Frogs from living up to their preseason No. 16 ranking. TCU has finished three of the last five seasons ranked in the top 10 of the AP Top 25 and it nearly made the 2014 College Football Playoff, so while it’s not Alabama, it’s still a high-level program in the Big 12 and in his home state of Texas.
It’s unfortunate that UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton’s serious leg injury makes the Knights a potentially viable option for Hurts, but the Knights have won more games in the last two seasons (25) than almost any program in the country. Darriel Mack Jr., UCF’s redshirt freshman backup quarterback, led the team to a comeback win over Memphis in the AAC Championship thanks to his six total touchdowns, but he was just 11-of-30 for 97 yards, one touchdown and one interception with 11 attempts for -3 rushing yards against LSU in the Fiesta Bowl.
Mack showed some flashes of promise against AAC competition, but Hurts could provide a one-year upgrade at quarterback while Milton continues his recovery in hopes of someday returning to the field.
Maybe UCF is more of a fun hypothetical destination than a legitimate contender for Hurts, but the Knights have won back-to-back conference titles and played in consecutive New Year’s Six bowl games, so while the AAC would be a step down in terms of competition from the SEC, Hurts could still win at a high level.
Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin was Alabama’s offensive coordinator during Hurts’ freshman season when he won SEC Offensive Player of the Year. Conference USA is a major step down from the SEC, but if Hurts wants to reunite with the coach who helped engineer his most successful college season, then maybe FAU isn’t so far-fetched of a potential destination.
Hurts threw for 2,780 yards and 23 touchdowns, while rushing for 954 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2016.
All of those statistics are career-highs.
Florida Atlantic went just 5-7 last season, but Hurts could arguably be the best college player in the conference from the moment he steps foot on campus. FAU opens the season at Ohio State, then hosts UCF in Week 2, so Hurts would have two major early season games even if the level of competition drops off in C-USA action.
This is another potential destination based on a relationship with an offensive coordinator. New Maryland coach Mike Locksley was on Alabama’s staff for the last three seasons, including serving as the team’s offensive coordinator last season.
The Terrapins have two underclassmen quarterbacks on their roster in Kasim Hill and Tyrrell Pigrome, but the former suffered a season-ending ACL injury in November, so Hurts would likely arrive in College Park as the starter, potentially allowing Hill to redshirt next season if needed.
Maryland opened its 2018 season with a win over Texas and the Terps nearly beat Ohio State, so while they play in the challenging Big Ten East, they showed the ability to compete with some of the best teams on their schedule.
If Hurts enjoyed playing under Locksley, then maybe he follows him north.
Hurts is from Channelview, Texas, which is just outside of Houston, and he even received an offer from the Cougars in high school. Houston has a new head coach in Dana Holgorsen, whose West Virginia offense ranked in the top 10 nationally in total yards per game and was led by a Heisman Trophy contender at quarterback in Will Grier.
Holgorsen coached former Houston quarterback Case Keenum, another former top-10 finisher in the Heisman voting, as the Cougars’ offensive coordinator in 2008 and 2009. Landing Hurts could be a big splash in terms of recruiting and national media attention for Holgorsen entering his first season.
Ultimately, it was Georgia’s talented defense two seasons ago, plus the enrollment of a potential generational quarterback talent in Tua Tagovailoa, that proved to be the breaking point in Hurts’ grasp on the starting quarterback role. But he still proved that he could throw for 200-plus yards and run for 100-plus yards in the SEC – sometimes even in the same game – so imagine the numbers that Hurts could put up against AAC competition.
The biggest possible holdup in a potential transfer to Houston is that the Cougars already have a productive, veteran, dual-threat quarterback in D’Eriq King. King completed 63.5 percent of his passes last season for 2,982 yards, 36 touchdowns and six interceptions, while rushing for 674 yards (6.1 yards per carry) and 14 touchdowns.
King’s production last season and return to Houston arguably outweighs all of the reasons why a Jalen Hurts-to-Houston marriage might make sense.