Dual-threat quarterbacks now the normBy Elliott Propes | 11/10/2016 11:53am
Alabama true freshman Jalen Hurts is just the latest of dual-threat quarterbacks taking over the SEC. The Crimson Tide will face its fourth dual-threat SEC quarterback on Saturday when Mississippi State's Nick Fitzgerald comes to Tuscaloosa.
“I think it’s the day and age of football that we play in right now. I think a lot of the spread teams, and I think Dan [Mullen, the Bulldogs' coach,] was like this when he had [Tim] Tebow at Florida,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “We went through the wildcat phase where we ran some of these plays with a running back, but you knew that that guy couldn’t pass. Now, we’re running some of the same kind of plays as part of the spread that are actually with a quarterback. When you have a talented guy that’s big and strong and athletic and can throw it pretty well, too, it makes it a very challenging thing to do to be able to play both of those things.”
Fitzgerald is definitely talented. He currently ranks fifth in the SEC in rushing, falling behind four running backs with 839 yards. He is fourth among all FBS quarterbacks in rushing yards. He is also coming off of a big win against then-No. 4 Texas A&M, a game in which Fitzgerald passed for 209 yards and two touchdowns, while running for 182 yards and another two touchdowns.
“[It’s] certainly a real challenge for us to do the things that we need to do as a team to get prepared to play a Mississippi State team that's probably playing their best football of the season," Saban said. "Another opportunity for us to sort of show what kind of competitors we are.”
Heisman Trophy front-runner Lamar Jackson has the most rushing yards as a quarterback with 1,181 yards. Dual-threat quarterbacks have become a trend not just in the SEC, but Heisman Trophy winners. Tebow was the first of five dual-threat quarterbacks to win the trophy over the last nine seasons.
It was only a matter of time before Saban jumped aboard. Hurts is just in the midst of his first-ever collegiate season, but Saban saw the potential that maybe some of the Heisman Trophy winners possessed, and that is to throw and run the ball effectively. Hurts has definitely shown his ability to make plays on the ground. He is second in the SEC, behind Fitzgerald, with 635 rushing yards. Hurts' air attack has been a little more shaky. Hurts ranks eighth in passing yards in the 12-team league and has thrown for under 200 yards in three consecutive weeks.
“We were out of sorts a little bit in the passing game. Jalen's had a really good week this week. Just sat down with him and watched some plays and showed him the simplicity of: This is what you're supposed to look at, this is what you're supposed to do and this is what you should have done,” Saban said. “I think sometimes guys that have success running as quarterback, it's a little more difficult for them to get the mindset that they want to be a complete player because they know they have the ability to take off running all the time, because that's when they have success and that's when they get a lot of positive self-gratification from.”
It will take more than running for Hurts and the rest of the Crimson Tide to stay undefeated this weekend. The Bulldogs took the Aggies by surprise last week, and now Alabama will have to defend another dual-threat quarterback while hoping its own produces enough offense. These quarterbacks are now a part of the game; the question now is which quarterback will win.