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Hurt Me! Hurt Me!: Jalen Hurts vs. Tennessee

I come in peace.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Tennessee
Run, Jalen, Run ha ha ha -- get it??? get it???
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Before anyone goes any further, I have a confession to make: I write for the lovely And the Valley Shook, and am I die hard LSU Tiger fan. If you want to stop now and send me hate mail, I’m all for it. My twitter handle is @sethgalina so please feel free to slide into my DM’s.

With that said, I’ve come over here to talk about your quarterback. I coach quarterbacks in my native land of CA-NA-DA (again, send your hate mail to @sethgalina) and as the, proverbial, wheels came off of Alabama’s passing attack in the big game, I wanted to see how much of this was on Jalen Hurts or other factors. I’m going to get to the Florida, Washington and Clemson games but first I decided to look at a game where Jalen’s numbers were pretty good so we could get a baseline level before we compare the end of the season. This led me to the Tennessee Volunteers. What’s nice about this game is that at least LSU and Alabama fans can agree on one thing: omggggg Tennessee suckssssssss. I’m also purposely going to leave out Jalen Hurts’ game against LSU because I would imagine you Tide fans are not going to want to read me gush over Dave Aranda’s defense. Plus, you can already do that here *winky face emoji*

After watching Jalen against Tennessee I have come to one conclusion: his passing ability is that of LSU’S GREATEST QUARTERBACK OF ALL TIME -- Brandon Harris. He reminds me so much of Brandon it’s crazy. The advantage that Hurts has is that he is a much more elusive runner. He’s a stupid athlete.


The kid is talented, but he’s still a kid. Bad reads and bad balls. That’s what you get from freshman quarterbacks who relied on their legs in high school.

I’ve broken down about 17 of his dropback throws from the Volunteer game. I eliminated screen passes, easy RPO’s, jet sweeps that count as a completion and the fumble on 3rd and 15 where Derek Barnett gets jiggy with your left tackle. After reviewing the film, I rate Jalen Hurts vs. Tennessee at 10/10 on the Brandon Harris scale.


Alabama runs what looks like a post-dig (maybe curl) combination against Tennessee’s Cover 4. The slot is going to split the middle of the field and attract that field side safety. If he wins the route, Hurts can throw this. It’s his first read. If not, he’ll come to the intermediate route by the wide out. We can’t see the post route develop but the safety over top is probably going to end up match that route so we can assume it’s covered. The dig/curl is open because the corner who is matched up on #1 has to respect the deep threat so it would take him time to drive down on a dig or curl. When Hurts gets to the end of his drop, he should have made a decision on the post. If it’s open, he’ll throw it right away. It’s not, so he will then hitch up to throw the curl. The problem is that he gets spooked in the pocket, for no reason, and ends up scrambling. Yes, this still should have been a completion because of the dropped pass, but from a quarterback perspective, Hurts should have come to the dig route earlier.


The idea behind most plays with a corner route from an inside alignment (slot, tight end, etc) is that we’re going to see if that outside defender over our #1 receiver is going to drop deep to take away the corner route or come up and give us the green grass to throw the corner. This is the first read. If the corner route is there, we’re gonna throw it. We can see that the Tennessee corner ends up being the flat defender but starts high and comes down, so when Hurts is making his decision on whether to throw the corner route, the corner is too high and Hurts goes to his next read. That next read is going to be to throw the ball away from the flat defender. In this case it’s the cornerback so Hurts makes the right read to get the ball to the spot route inside.


I’m not entirely sure what’s going on here. Hurts must be thinking his receiver is going to turn his fade route into a 6 yard hitch because of the cornerback blitz. I can’t tell you who’s right and who’s wrong. I would imagine the receiver has to break his route off. The pass protection looks like it would have Hurts and the receiver picking up any outside pressure from the left side. The problem is that the pressure comes from the cornerback so it’s a little more awkward of a read for the receiver than a more common pressure from an overhang player who isn’t lined up in front of the receiver. It’s more awkward because you don’t try to involve your outside receivers so much in practicing the protections.

Zone Pressure

Tennessee comes with a nice pressure that frees up an inside rusher clean to the quarterback. It’s obviously a tough play for Hurts but he makes the right read to try to throw the intermediate out route, the throw is just off because of the pressure. You can throw those types of routes against off corners because it’s hard for the cornerback to defend deep and then have to drive toward the sideline in time.

Post- Out

Here’s that out route again as Tennessee comes with a Cover 1 pressure. If you throw this on time, it’s so hard to cover. Jalen is still going to look at the post first, but the middle of the field safety takes that away. The post route would be thrown at the end of his dropback so the out route is going to be thrown off one hitch. The timing is money.

Escape Left

Tough to really see what’s going on here. Tennessee rolls into a pretty basic Cover 3 but you can’t see how any of the routes develop. On the broadcast, Gary Danielson says Hurts was looking for OJ Howard but I feel as though Hurts is trying to throw another deep out/comeback but doesn’t pull the trigger when he realizes he can’t step into the throw. It’s also possible that they have a fade and corner combination working with Howard on the corner. Either way, it’ a good escape by Hurts.

Deep Crosser

This is the concept for teams that run the ball as much and as well as Alabama does. Hi/Lo on the safety. When teams want to stop the run and play 8 in the box, they have to play either a variation of Cover 1 or Cover 3. This concept beats both. The progression is post to deep crosser. If we can win over top on the post, we’ll take it. If the safety stays deep like he does here, you come down to your deep crosser which has to win across the field versus man coverage or get lost over top of the intermediate zones against zone defense. Hurts makes the right read, but the ball is awful.

In the Dirt

It looks like man coverage so Hurts does the right thing by finding his out breaking route. The route is open, he is just wildly inaccurate.

Post- Dig (the remix)

This looks like it could be that same post-dig combo from the earlier. As noted, Hurts is going to look at the post first and I think the reason he doesn’t throw it is because Dieter gets collisioned so Hurts comes off that route even though the safeties are crazy wide. Derek Barnett forces him up the field and outside where Hurts finds his check down.

Naked Boot

This one just kinda sucks. Tennessee does a good job taking both available routes away. The free safety doesn’t bite on anything so he takes away that crosser coming from the backside of the formation and the weakside corner doesn’t get sucked in anything which allows hi to cover the slice action. It’s unfortunate that the ball gets intercepted.


The post-wheel (in this case because of the condensed splits, it must just be 4 verts with a “switch” tag) combo is a great one against Cover 1 or Cover 3 but Tennessee is in a split safety coverage. You’d probably like to win with the post route inside the safety but the linebacker does a great job matching it underneath. That’s a tough throw. The problem now is that the wheel is going to run into that cornerback. Luckily, these guys are taught well and the receiver adjusts his pattern and slams on the breaks. Jalen doesn’t read it properly and is actually still throwing the fade route. This is no bueno and you can see how angry future Florida Atlantic head coach Lane Kiffin is:

Deep Crosser (part deux)

Another deep crosser concept. Jalen is looking to see if anyone can cap the bench route by the near side receiver. Tennessee does, so he gets to his second progression: the deep cross. It’s a good read and a good throw. The reason why #28 for Tennessee is near the ball is because there were no routes underneath that kept him in the flats to that side.

Y-Corner (spot the difference)

Another corner route that gets taken away by a deep cornerback. Don’t panic, just come down to your short routes. The flat route is being matched to the sideline so throw the spot route. Or don’t and have former LSU head coach Nick Saban yell at you:

Deep Crosser III

The same deep crosser concept from earlier in the 3rd quarter but the bench route is open. This is a v nice ball.

Coverage Bust

Tennessee messes up here as the middle linebacker probably has no reason to chase a flat route in Cover 2. Two players flinch to the flats leaving OJ Howard wide open.

Our thanks to Seth for breaking down some of Hurts’ film. Obviously, there’s going to be a dig here and there at a rival fanbase, but his insight on the passing game is excellent. It’s easy for most of us to comment that the timing was off, or the reads or communication weren’t there. But, it’s a different ball of wax to know exactly what went wrong (and right.) Hopefully, over the coming week or so, we’ll all be a little better educated as to the good and bad parts of the freshman’s passing game and his development.