Oklahoma just won a commitment from undoubtedly the biggest name on the college football transfer market in former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts.
While Kyler Murray mulls over his options of whether or not to go to the NFL or pursue a career in MLB, Lincoln Riley was still going to need to find a quarterback to — once again — replace a Heisman Trophy winner.
On the face, the three seasons Hurts spent in the Alabama offense doesn't necessarily translate to the offense he is expected to run at Oklahoma as a graduate transfer in 2019. However, we can still measure a few stats of his to Mayfield and Murray to project whether or not Oklahoma will make the College Football Playoff in the 2019 college football season. Stats from Hurts' 2018 season isn't included because he wasn't the starting quarterback.
Let’s just get the obvious out of the way: Hurts doesn’t come close to Mayfield and Murray in total passing yards. In Hurts’ two full seasons as the starter for the Crimson Tide, he threw for a combined 4,681 yards, 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. In 2017, when Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy, the gunslinger threw for 4,627 yards, 43 touchdown passes and six interceptions. This past season, Murray threw for 4,361 yards, 42 touchdown passes and seven picks.
It’s impossible to have an precise comparison of these players in passing stats, but Hurts is still a pretty accurate passer. This season, in limited time, he completed 70 percent of his passes for 10.9 yards per attempt.
|Year||Player||Completions||Attempts||Completion %||Yards per Attempt||Touchdowns||Interceptions||Pass Efficiency Rating|
|2016||Jalen Hurts (FR)||240||382||62.8||7.3||23||9||139.1|
|Baker Mayfield (JR)||254||358||70.9||11.1||40||8||196.4|
|2017||Jalen Hurts (SO)||154||255||60.4||8.2||17||1||150.2|
|Baker Mayfield (SR)||285||404||70.5||11.5||43||6||198.9|
|2018||Kyler Murray (JR)||260||377||69.0||11.6||42||7||199.2|
There’s little doubt Hurts’ numbers will rise in 2019 with the Sooners offense because of the type of system Riley runs, but by how much? At Alabama, Hurts had six games throwing more than 30 times in his first year with the Tide, but had zero in 2017. Mayfield had seven in each season. Expect Hurts to throw the ball much more if Oklahoma is to make the playoff for a third straight season.
Hurts is more of a runner than Mayfield, so he might use his feet in a similar way Murray did this most recent college football season. Hurts had 10 or more carries in 10 games in 2017 while Murray had eight such games in 2018. Murray — and Mayfield for that matter — was more involved in the overall offensive output the past two years than Hurts was in 2016 and 2017. But here’s a look at the average yards per play each player had in those respective seasons.
|Rushing attempts||Passing attempts||Rushing yards||Passing yards||Yards per total attempts||Touchdowns|
|2016||Jalen Hurts (FR)||191||382||954||2780||6.52||36|
|2017||Jalen Hurts (SO)||154||255||855||2081||7.18||25|
|2018||Kyler Murray (JR)||140||377||1001||4361||10.37||54|
Clearly, Murray has been the more productive player, which is what you would expect from the player that just broke the passer efficiency rating that his teammate (Mayfield) broke the year before.
Hurts hasn’t been a legitimate Heisman candidate so these numbers are by no means standards that his 2019 season should be compared to. And it’s worth considering the defenses Oklahoma quarterbacks and Hurts have played against in their careers. Here are the ranks of the defenses that Hurts played against in 2016 and 2017 compared to Mayfield.
|Games||Best defense||Worst defense||Avg. defense|
|2016||Jalen Hurts (FR)||15||5th||100th||47.1|
|Baker Mayfield (JR)||13||3rd||128th||63.9|
|2017||Jalen Hurts (SO)||14||2nd||115th||46.8|
|Baker Mayfield (SR)||14||6th||129th||63|
The Oklahoma Sooners certainly got a quarterback that has proven he’s good enough to lead a team to the College Football Playoff and has experienced in the most important game — the national championship. But how he translates into the pass-happy Oklahoma offense remains to be seen.