It took the most critical situation for Dan Enos to fully recognize the evolution.
Fourth quarter. Trailing Georgia by a touchdown. Third-and-12. No one open. Tua Tagovailoa was out, injured. So much more than a pocket threatened to collapse for Alabama.
But Jalen Hurts waited until the last possible second, then rifled a pass over the middle. First down.
“That, to me, was the epitome of everything he had been working on and talking about getting better at,” says Enos, who was Alabama’s quarterbacks coach last season. “It showed up.”
After a season spent on the bench, the former two-year starter and star showed up when Alabama most needed him, rallying the Crimson Tide to victory in the SEC championship game. A couple of months later, Hurts touched down at Oklahoma, sliding into the space occupied by the last two Heisman Trophy winners and setting up an especially compelling story line.
Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray won the coveted award because of their ability to operate college football’s most potent offense, which is what makes the subplot at least as intriguing. Hurts, who was 26-2 as a starter and the SEC’s offensive player of the year as a freshman in 2016, was benched halfway through the 2017 national championship game and eventually lost the starting job at Alabama because of passing deficiencies.