Nick Saban: Alabama 'protected' Jalen Hurts instead of developing him late in season

Hurts, a true freshman in 2016, struggled with his passing late in the season. Saban accepts some responsibility for that.

Alabama coach Nick Saban claims partial responsibility for Alabama's subpar passing game toward the end of its 2016 season, one that saw the Tide lose in the national title game to Clemson.

Saban, in a Thursday interview with Birmingham, Ala., radio station WJOX-FM, said the Tide tried to shelter freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts later in the season, rather than develop him as a passer.

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“Sometimes later in the year when people played us in a way that we needed to be able to throw the ball, we may not have been as efficient as we would have liked to have been,” Saban told WJOX (via Gridiron Now). “That was probably our fault as coaches. Because we protected him, instead of developed him as a young player.

“The goal this spring and before next season is that we can create more balance by being a better passing team to go along with what we’re able to do with our feet as a quarterback," Saban said, "as well as how that creates balance for our overall offense and utilizes some of the other skill players that we have.”

Hurts particularly struggled in the final three games of the season against Florida, Washington and Clemson, whose defenses ranked sixth, 10th and ninth in yards per game, respectively. Hurts completed 31 of 70 passes (44.2 percent) for 326 yards and two touchdowns against those teams. He was noticeably inconsistent in the title game against Clemson, against which Hurts completed only 13 of 31 passes for 131 yards.

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Alabama's inconsistency in the passing game caused some frustration among fans last season, prompting someone to create a petition to change Alabama OC Brian Daboll's first name to "Run."

Saban, for his part, thinks Daboll will help Hurts further develop as a passer, and help the offense make better use of the Tide's skill players. Saban also gave a glimpse into the kind of quarterback he wants Hurts to be in 2017.

"We want a dual-threat quarterback who can make plays with his feet, but maybe not necessarily have a bunch of quarterback runs to enhance the offense," Saban said. "So, I think that’s the goal for what we want to do. I think Brian brings a special skill set of being in the NFL, with a very successful program and offensive team.”

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