|Left Outside||Left Middle||Right Middle||Right Outside||Total|
|20+||2/3||0/1||0/2 (1 INT)||2/6 (1 INT)|
|Total||3/5||4/5||9/12||3/8 (1 INT)||19/30 (1 INT)|
Outside the Pocket: 3/7 (plus 1 throwaway)
Under Pressure: 4/9 (1 INT, plus 1 throwaway)
Red Zone: 2/4
3rd/4th Down: 7/10 (5 conversions)
Forced Adjustments: 2
Total Throwaways: 1
Sports can be cruel. After four years of putting together one of the most storied college careers of the modern era, complete with a comeback story following a benching in the National Championship, Jalen Hurts’ college career ended in a blowout. It was one of the worst performances of Hurts’ career, and yet the real pain is that even Hurts’ best surely wouldn’t have beaten the titan that is LSU. Hurts was up against an unstoppable force and fell limp as it barreled by him and the Sooners.
With Hurts’ college career over, it’s time that he and the rest of us focus on his draft prospects. The lasting impression Hurts leaves for his draft profile, even if unfair, is a middling performance that sheds light on some of his issues with pocket comfort, mechanics, and generally accuracy. All throughout the game, one problem seemed to lead to another for Hurts, be that his own issues piling on top of each other or his teammates’ faults being too much for him to overcome.
While Hurts wasn’t quite as bad as the sub-50 percent completion suggests, he certainly wasn’t good. Hurts was accurate on just over 60 percent of his 30 qualifying pass attempts. Unadjusted for depth of target, somewhere around 70 percent tends to be the norm for most one-off performances, but Hurts dipped below that. Hurts had at least one head-scratching miss at every level of the field, and a handful of them in the 6-15 yard area of the field.
Perhaps this play encapsulates Hurts’ and Oklahoma’s day better than any other. To the bottom of the screen, WR CeeDee Lamb runs a slant and breaks wide open as soon as he snaps his route inside. Given there is no safety or linebacker over the middle anywhere near Lamb, this is the dream look for any quarterback. At the same time, however, Oklahoma’s left guard sort of loses track of himself and drifts back into Hurts, limiting the passer’s ability to step up anywhere. Hurts doesn’t really have enough time to move or adjust at this point because the ball needs to be out instantly. While this isn’t detrimental, necessarily, it does make Hurts’ job a bit tougher, especially since he doesn’t have the most flexible mechanics as is. In turn, Hurts ends up throwing with a bit of a whipping motion that pushes the ball out unnaturally without following it through. The wonky release leads to a pass that is just wide of Lamb’s outstretched arms and jeopardized a scoring drive.
After a few more plays, including a penalty on LSU’s defense, Oklahoma eventually punched in the touchdown. Hurts was bailed out for his misfire, but it’s hard to watch that miss fly by Lamb’s hands and not feel uneasy about Hurts’ ability to consistently place passes where they need to be. In general, Hurts can mask some of his inaccuracies by regularly getting to the correct early read on time and throwing on rhythm, but plays like this crop up just a bit too often to feel 100 percent certain that he can be a rock behind center.
Hurts and the Sooners experienced a similar misfire later in the game, this time with the quarterback being more at fault than anyone else. Hurts’ semi-blind pocket awareness and inflexible mechanics got the best of him on what should have been a wide-open throw to Lamb.
It’s tough to say for certain without the All-22, but it looks like LSU have a “Dagger” concept from the trips side with a mesh combination underneath. Throughout Hurts’ initial process, he is looking to the vertical route first. Hurts realizes the deep safety (presumably) over the top around the left hash has not budged and will not be giving up the vertical shot for free here. The next move, naturally, is to move onto the ‘dig’ route over the middle to Lamb. With the mesh combination underneath drawing down the linebackers and the vertical route forcing the safeties to fall back, the intermediate area is wide open for a dart to Lamb. In transitioning to Lamb, however, Hurts doesn’t properly account for his surroundings and gradually slides up into his center. When it comes time to throw, Hurts doesn’t have very much room to follow through because of where his drifting in the pocket took him. Once again, Hurts isn’t able to adjust his throwing slot at the last second and ends up completely missing Lamb.
Hurts’ drifting in the pocket led him to a place he didn’t really want to be, and such is the case with him often. Though he is a great athlete for the position, Hurts’ pocket movement often isn’t deliberate and he can be a tick late in sensing pressure once it starts breaking through. For more malleable throwers, this can be fine, but Hurts hasn’t shown to be that kind of flexible as of late. This was a major problem for Hurts at Alabama, too. The senior seemed to have fixed it, at least in part, through the first eight games or so of this season, but has since reverted back to some of his robotic tendencies from the pocket.
It’s not that Hurts is scared of pressure or playing around bodies either. He just doesn’t always sense it, nor does he show the intuition to know where to move to deal with it. Simply not being scared is enough to put Hurts above the “not a detriment” line, but for him to advance into being a legitimately capable, or even threatening, passer from crowded pockets, he is going to need to prove himself to be more flexible in his throwing process. Misses like the two above just can not happen, even with slightly uncomfortable bases.
In Hurts’ defense, some of the egregious misplays from Oklahoma’s offense weren’t the fault of their senior quarterback. Skill players dropped a number of passes, many of which were shallow throws that should have been a handful of easy yards for the offense. The offensive line was a disaster for most of the day, which maybe should have been expected given the prowess of players along LSU’s front such as K’Lavon Chasson. Above all, though, Hurts’ lone interception stands out as a clear blemish for the Oklahoma offense, but there is a convincing case that he was not to blame for it necessarily.
If we want to nit-pick, Hurts could have put a bit more juice on this ball. There is always room for something more to be done to increase the chance of a play working. By all accounts, though, Oklahoma got their guy open the way the play intended them to. With Hurts receiving the ball late and so deep in the pocket due to all the trickeration, it would be very difficult for him to rifle in a bullet from here. The ball has to come out immediately and he’s already lost 10-ish yards from his drop back. As such, Hurts lets this ball hang a little bit to let the receiver run under it, as is usually the case with any of these trick-play wheel routes or throwback wheel routes off of play-action.
LSU safety Kary Vincent makes a ridiculous play to get over to the sideline from the middle of the field, though. Vincent getting all the way across is impressive in itself, even if he had only collided with the receiver to force an incompletion. That Vincent could also go up for the ball, rip it away from the receiver, and turn his body to shield away from the receiver is almost unthinkable. It’s the caliber of play defensive coaches dream of seeing their deep safety make. In the same vein, it’s not the kind of play any offensive coach expects an opposing defender to actually make. It's hard to put the blame all on Hurts for that.
All of this is not to say Hurts is doomed as a prospect. In fact, this season as a whole likely boosted his draft stock above whatever it would have been at Alabama. He was able to compete in a completely foreign setting with a supporting cast far less talented than many would assume of Oklahoma, especially considering the groups Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray played with. Still, this game served as a reminder that Hurts has his fair share of limitations. That extra gear to kick over from competent to in-control may not be there.
For a Day 3 prospect, there isn’t much more Hurts could show to prove his value. Hurts is mobile, has a functional arm, has proven himself up to par mentally in a number of different offenses, and continues to show off an unrivaled work ethic and drive. It was already tough to believe Hurts had the potential to be a top-flight prospect, though, and collapses against LSU in a playoff game only solidify that notion.