By (Matthew Speakman)

All offseason, one question has surrounded Jalen Hurts and his ability to lead the offense in his sophomore year. The SEC offensive player of the year showed defenders that he could hurt them with his legs. When it comes to his arm, can he bring the same pressure?

Heading into No. 1 Alabama’s matchup with No. 3 Florida State, the quarterback believes the game has slowed down for him. This season, he believes he has improved all aspects of his game – including his passing.

“It’s a little different coming from a maturity aspect and being coached by Coach Daboll and all that,” Hurts said. “I think a lot of stuff has gotten better.”

Even though he struggled to connect with receivers down the stretch for Alabama, Hurts still had a good season passing the ball. He finished with 2780 yards and 23 touchdowns. Still, his struggles – and the passing game’s struggles overall – were a problem in the Crimson Tide’s playoff run.

Hurts has spent a lot of the offseason improving his pocket presence. His downfield passing seemed to be there in Alabama’s spring game, when he threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns. Even though his passing has been a key point, members of Alabama’s offense still want him to take off if he sees an opening.

“On offense, when you’re playing against all these good defenses in the SEC, you’ve got a lot of good pass rushers, so we need that running sometimes to get a first down, so it’s always good to have a guy back there like that,” wide receiver Calvin Ridley said.

Hurts is on the same page as Ridley. While he wants to be a pocket passer first, he has no issue with finding running lanes when things break down. For him, that’s just what every good quarterback should do.

“If [the read is] not there and you have the ability to take off and make a play, then you do that,” he said.

Running the ball was not the only thing that came naturally to Hurts. From game one, everyone spoke of his calmness and how much it took to fluster him. Hurts was a natural leader – even at the age of 18. Coming back as a sophomore, he is still the face of Alabama’s offense. He is the team’s leader and is still an underclassman.

Entering his second season, many of his teammates believe that he is even more comfortable leading the team. That could mean bad things for Alabama’s opponents.

“I think that it just being his second season, he’s really comfortable there,” Jonah Williams said. “Not that he wasn’t last year, but you can tell he’s got presence about him, commanding the offense.”

His teammates trust him. Hurts is a dynamic player who will make plays all over the field. Now, he has a full season under his belt. He’s played in rivalry games. He’s played in tough road games. He’s even played in a national championship. He’s ready to lead once again, and that has always been his mindset.

“Some of that comes naturally, some of that just comes from me being who I am. But people lead because they let you lead,” Hurts said. “Just because I walk in and say I want to do this don’t mean I’m going to do it. It happens over time, respect and what you do on the field. My peers respect me and we just want to improve every day.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports