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Alabama Film Study: Jalen Hurts vs. Clemson: The worst day in a Crimson uniform for the star quarterback

Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama
The offensive line did him no favors either.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Ed. Note: Today, Seth takes a final look at Jalen Hurts’ passing game in detail. Yeah, we’re getting to that game, the worse one of Jalen’s career. On a night when the Tide needed him because that f’n moron Sarkisian forgot about the running backs, Hurts had his worst performance as a collegian. The four problem areas that had popped up throughout the season finally all came together on the same night: play calling, lack of knowledge of the offense/audibling into a good play, missed reads, inaccuracy.

While it is true that not all of those were his fault, many were, especially the bad reads, mental errors, and execution. Fortunately, some of those can be coached — hopefully. Seth is right that few QBs at this level get it together enough to reading defenses accurately and then execute the pass accurately.

Despite a deservedly harsh indictment of his performance that night, I think he’ll improve. Hurts began working on those problem areas the morning after Tampa and has by all accounts has improved already. Still, I’m not willing to count Hurts out because of some freshman moments and growing pains against the very best teams in the nation.

As always, take his ribbing with a grain of salt: Seth’s day job is as a quarterback coach. His night job is being an asshole LSU fan. As to the former, I thank him for the hard work it took to contribute to the site. As to the latter, that’s just inevitable.

Roll Tide -E

Hey, remember when Alabama lost to Clemson in the national championship game

I remember.

Hurts was pretty bad in this game. He only had 13 completions, and, if my count is right, 7 of those were screen passes. Not a good day at all. It felt like the Saban/Sarkisian gameplan was to not allow Jalen to hurt himself. xylophone. There was a few play actions with the deep crosser/post or a flood concept, and maybe 4-5 slant/flat combo’s but then after that there was really no other quick game concepts and not really any intermediate stuff. The coaching staff put him on a leash and they still scored 31 points, so it’s not like the overall game plan failed, but Jalen Hurts himself failed.

On to the game in Tampa:

Quick Game Concept - Slant/Flat

First pass of the game and I already don’t like what’s going on. Pre-snap look is either Cover 1 or 3 and Slant/Flat is great versus either of those coverages. The flat defender runs with OJ Howard on the flat route, opening up the slant but for some reason Hurts throws to Howard anyways. Bad read.

They’re running the same concept with the receiver and the back now. When Jalen sees the corner in bail technique, he can easily come to Scarborough out of the backfield, especially with no linebackers anywhere close to the weakside of the field.

Jalen throws the same same combo on this play but the problem with this is that he threw this pass at all. Pre-snap, to the top of the screen, he has a pretty big numbers advantage to throw the screen. You have a strong safety at 8 yards from the LOS and an “apex” linebacker. It’s basically 3v1 on that screen. I don’t know Alabama’s rule for throwing the screen but I can imagine that Clemson’s alignment in this case would give Jalen the green light to throw it.

I like that he waits for #10 to really declare himself to the flats before throwing the slant.


I think this ends up being a good read, but I’m not sure why Hurts doesn’t get rid of the ball sooner. There’s no replay, but we can assume some things: The corner is in bail technique and with the Alabama #3 receiver uncovered, we can assume this is cover 3. With the flood concept, the QB is going to read the low/flat defender as he’s rolling out. The Clemson defender over the Alabama #2 receiver is in his backpedal right away, so you’re thinking he’s taking away the intermediate sideline route, therefore, Hurts should have thrown to his quick out route a lot earlier.

2) Play-Action Flood

Again, this is the only view we get. The deep route by the Alabama receiver to the bottom of the screen, I’m going to say it’s a corner route, is outleveraged to the outside by a Clemson db. The intermediate crosser from the backside gets covered by Clemson #6. The shallow crosser is open for a while as Clemson #34 chases his from across the formation but Hurts never pulls the trigger.

3- Rollout x2

We can’t see the whole field again, but it’s OK, we can talk about pre-snap stuff. This situation here, is where you get in trouble with a young quarterback who can’t make audibles. Alabama is in empty and Clemson is showing cover 0 before the snap. Showing no safeties means you’re pretty much going to get pressured with at least 5 players. The quarterback has to have an automatic check to whatever the coaches have decided is their best 1 or 2 plays against cover 0 blitz. This is where Jalen could improve going into next year as a sophomore because this is a waste of a play. Rolling out against cover 0 is probably not the best move. I’d say you wanna stay in the pocket where at least you have some protection. And now, here’s the funny thing about Clemson’s defense: I would say, in normal circumstances, it would be dumb to play cover 0 and not blitz. You can’t only rush 4, give the QB time and not have a free safety. Jalen’s running ability gives Clemson pause when deciding to blitz with 0 coverage behind it. You don’t wanna send pressure, have Hurts break free because that’s 6 points.

Inaccurate Throws

We tell our QB’s when we have a 6 yard hitch route against a cover 3 corner, that his read is going to be whether the flat defender pauses with the inside slot route or shoots to the flats immediately. Here the Clemson flat player shuffles his feet a bit on top of the slot route, so this is a good read and terrible ball.

Looking forward to next year, I’ve come to the conclusion that to be a competent college quarterback you need to be able to do at least 1 of 3 things:

A) be able to read a defense and go through your progression

B) be accurate with the ball

C) be an elite option runner

While Jalen only ticks off the “C” box for now, that’s still enough to be successful at this level. Most college quarterbacks don’t have any of those 3 traits. Will he ever be an “A” or a “B”? I’d wager no, and it has nothing to do with Jalen himself: Most quarterbacks don’t become proficient in either of those categories. If you’re looking at historical trends then you wouldn’t bet on it. I just think tempering expectations would be wise.

There are always outliers though.