Alabama Safety: We're "Thankful" For Jalen Hurts

Despite losing his starting job, Jalen Hurts has been "very supportive" and "a great teammate," Deionte Thompson said

Tiki and Tierney
September 26, 2018 - 5:25 pm

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Who would play quarterback for Alabama – Tua Tagovailoa or Jalen Hurts – was a popular topic of conversation this past offseason, especially in Tuscaloosa.

It wasn’t, however, a popular topic of conversation among actual Alabama players.

“It didn’t consume me too much because I knew at the end of the day Coach Saban was going to make the best decision for the team,” Alabama safety Deionte Thompson said on Tiki and Tierney. “I knew that would play out through spring and fall camp, but we had so many concerns on defense that we had to worry about. We had to replace a lot of starters to the NFL. We had a young secondary – no starting experience in the secondary except for the two games I started. That was one of my biggest concerns – making sure that everybody in the secondary was up to speed and just knew how the game was going to be. That was one of my main focuses, and I knew that Coach Saban would handle the quarterback situation.”

He did. Saban made Tagovailoa the starter, while inserting Hurts in specific situations. The result has been overwhelming: No. 1 Alabama (4-0) has outscored its opponents – Louisville, Arkansas State, Old Miss and Texas A&M – by a combined 215-51.

Tagovailoa has completed 58-of-80 passes (72.5 percent) for 1,033 yards, 12 touchdowns and zero interceptions, while running 18 times for 103 yards and two scores. Hurts, meanwhile, is 22-of-31 (71.0 percent) for 276 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception.

His most impressive number, however, might be zero: as in, number of distractions caused.

“It just goes to show you his character,” Thompson said of Hurts, who was 26-2 as a starter. “He’s a great person, he's a great teammate – he’s been very supportive behind the whole situation. Not too many guys that would be in his situation would do that, and you just have to be thankful for him and thankful for what he brings to the table. Every time he gets the opportunity to go out there, he showcases his ability.”

Alabama is chasing its sixth national title in 10 years – and make no mistake: the Tide are focused solely on this season.

“We don’t worry about last year’s championship because it’s in the past,” Thompson said. “What we did in 2017 has nothing to do with what we do in 2018. That was last year’s team, and this year’s team, we have to create a new identity for ourselves every week. We got off to a good start, but we know down the road we’re going to play some better teams, and we’re going to have to be prepared for them.”

Thompson said the team must play to “the Alabama standard.”

“The guys that came before us,” he said, “they’ve done a great job of playing to the Alabama standard and (being a) dominating, physical team, playing fast for 60 minutes – that’s what we have to do. That’s the expectation around here. We have to come and play to it every week.”

Thompson is doing his part. In fact, he’s one of the top safeties in America and has drawn comparisons to Sean Taylor and Ed Reed.

“I’ve heard it from different people,” Thompson said of the comparisons, “but I don’t make too much of a big deal out of it. Those are two household names that played the safety position. Even though it’s a great honor, I feel like I have a long way to go to be compared to them. They were masterminds of the safety position, and I feel like I’m just now getting my feet wet at the position. I still have a lot more to learn.”

Speaking of playing in the NFL, Thompson is keenly aware of the league's emphasis on player safety – and the dozens of roughing-the-passer penalties that have occurred through the first three weeks of the season.

“I pay attention very closely,” Thompson said. “I see guys getting called for roughing the passer a lot of Sundays and guys getting called for targeting just about every Sunday. It all becomes about hat placement and just the safety of keeping guys safe around the game of football. You want to play physical and you want to play fast, but at the same time, you want to be safe. You want to make football a safe sport. You just have to watch where you’re putting your head when you tackle and just try to make a clean tackle with your shoulder and keep your head up.”