It worked with Baker Mayfield, then Kyler Murray.
Will lightning strike a third time at Oklahoma, this time with Jalen Hurts?
Hurts, the former Alabama quarterback who started for the Crimson Tide in two national championship games, announced Wednesday he will transfer to OU for his final remaining year of collegiate eligibility this fall.
Should he win the job as expected, Hurts would become the third straight transfer QB to start for the Sooners, with each of the last two — Mayfield and Murray — claiming the Heisman Trophy.
His addition could also align the Sooners for a potential rematch with Alabama in the next College Football Playoff, after the two met just weeks ago in the Orange Bowl.
Hurts is arguably college football’s most impactful quarterback transfer in history. He went 26-2 as Alabama’s starter before being replaced at halftime of the 2017 national championship game by Tua Tagovailoa, who retained the job last season.
Once it became apparent Tagovailoa was the Tide’s QB of the future, Hurts’ dad Averion — who is head coach at Channelview High School in the Houston area — told Bleacher Report his son would “be the biggest free agent in college football history,” should he leave Alabama.
That proved to be correct.
Hurts set up a whirlwind weekend after entering his name in the NCAA transfer portal on Jan. 9. He visited Maryland last Friday, OU on Saturday and Miami on Sunday. In Maryland, he met with Mike Locksley, his former Alabama offensive coordinator. In South Beach, he met with Miami offensive coordinator Dan Enos, who was his former quarterbacks coach in Tuscaloosa.
Hurts spurned them both in favor of OU coach Lincoln Riley, whom he has never learned under but brought along both Murray and Mayfield, though with ample time.
Riley will have one spring and a preseason to polish Hurts, who wasn’t a high-volume thrower in Tuscaloosa. He managed games efficiently and is a dynamic runner at 6 foot 2, 218 pounds, rushing for 954 yards his freshman season in 2016 and 855 yards the following year.
Hurts threw for 2,780 yards as a freshman and 2,081 as a sophomore. In a sticky situation as the backup last fall, he completed 51 of 70 passes for 765 yards with eight TDs to two interceptions.
He came off the bench to lead Alabama to the SEC title championship over Georgia, completing 7 of 9 passes for 82 yards and a score. His 15-yard TD run in the fourth quarter served as the game winner.
“You see the unselfishness in [Alabama’s] program,” Riley said ahead of the Orange Bowl. “The most obvious and notable situation is Jalen Hurts, how he handled that entire situation … Every kid, every college football player, every young football player out there, every 6-year-old who wants to play the game ought to see that story. We need more guys like him.”
To participate in spring practice, Hurts must enroll at OU by the final day of registration January 18. Should he arrive this semester, the first opportunity to see him in uniform would be the April 13 spring game.
In August, his primary competition for the job will be the nation’s top-rated 2019 quarterback Spencer Rattler, who did not immediately return a message from The Transcript, but told The Arizona Republic he was excited about the news.
“I love it,” Rattler said. “Jalen is a great player and I’m excited to get to play with him. It’ll be great competition for sure.”
During several hours before Hurts’ commitment Wednesday, there was continued uncertainty at OU’s quarterback position, with former backup Austin Kendall seeking immediate eligibility at West Virginia as a transfer destination. Without Kendall or Hurts in the mix, the Sooners would have had one scholarship quarterback on campus this spring in redshirt freshman Tanner Mordecai.
While it waited on Hurts’ decision, OU initially chose to not grant Kendall a waiver for immediate eligibility, according to reports, but by evening the USA Today reported the school relented.
The next step is fitting Hurts into the plan. In an essay penned for The Players’ Tribune website announcing his decision, he sounded eager to introduce himself.
“To my about about-to-be family in Norman, I truly appreciate you for bringing me on board,” Hurts wrote. “Ya’ll don’t know me yet … but for now, to introduce myself: I’m a motivated coach’s son from the Eastside of Houston, and I love to play ball.”