Sport Nick Saban's bold decision to play a true freshman QB backfired at the worst possible time

11:36  10 january  2017
11:36  10 january  2017 Source:   FOXSports

Kyrgios battling to be fit for Australian Open

  Kyrgios battling to be fit for Australian Open Home favourite Nick Kyrgios believes 10 days rest will be enough time for him to recover for the Australian Open in Melbourne.Nick Kyrgios hopes a couple of days rest will help get rid of a persistent knee injury as the Australian Open draws near.

With 2:44 left in the first quarter , after redshirt freshman Blake Barnett got the start at quarterback , Hurts made his debut as a true freshman . Alabama trailed 3-0, and he immediately made it worse by botching a handoff and fumbling. "Both guys were a little shaky in the beginning, but I think Jalen, each series that he played , got more and more comfortable." The title of " Nick Saban ' s starting quarterback at Alabama" is an odd one.

Nick Saban has always done things a little differently when it came to how he runs his football program. He calls it The Process and it is a detailed system that has turned Alabama’ s program into one of the greatest college football dynasties of all- time . It’ s not that Saban wouldn’t ever consider starting a true freshman quarterback , but the two things he values the most in his quarterbacks ( playing smart and limiting turnovers) are difficult to grasp for a guy who was playing high school football months earlier.

Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban looks on during the third quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game against the Clemson Tigers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports © Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban looks on during the third quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game against the Clemson Tigers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban looks on during the third quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game against the Clemson Tigers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Before this season, Nick Saban had never played a true freshman quarterback in his long and illustrious head coaching career.

CFP Championship: Who has the coaching edge and why it's more than just a rematch

  CFP Championship: Who has the coaching edge and why it's more than just a rematch In retrospect, maybe we should have seen Clemson's rout of Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinal coming. Head coach Dabo Swinney's team is deeper, more experienced and ready to play for the National Championship against an Alabama team that just barely got the best of them in 2016 in the same title bout. Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide might be favored going into the final game of the season, but Swinney has his Tigers hitting their stride at the exact right moment.

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Nick Saban has decided on the best players to lead the Alabama Crimson Tide this Saturday against the In fact, many believed the true freshman had an actual shot at taking the starting job. The " Nick Saban is a racist because he didn't name Jalen Hurts the starting QB " conversation is really Is it possible to look at those numbers and percentages, and truly determine that Nick Saban is a racist

But Jalen Hurts was a different kind of player, and while he didn't start the season as Alabama's starting quarterback, he won the job, fair and square.

Saban looked like a genius for going with the 18-year-old Texan at times this season — Alabama's offense thrived as it made its final step away from the power game that might as well have been the trademark of a Saban team and fully became a modern, run-first spread attack, the kind that Saban hates to defend.

The results were undeniable: Hurts became the first Saban quarterback to throw for 300 yards and rush for 100 in a game, and Alabama's offense was one of the best and most balanced in college football. Along that all-time defense, you could easily make the argument that the 2016 Tide was Saban's best-ever team.

Alabama's advantages and weaknesses going into the CFP Championship

  Alabama's advantages and weaknesses going into the CFP Championship Alabama spent the 2016 season looking like one of the biggest juggernauts to roll through not just college football, but all of sports for the year. Blow out wins all season along, even against against ranked teams like USC, Tennessee and Florida during the regular season followed by a relatively easy victory over the Washington Huskies in the CFP semifinal game. Sure LSU gave them a scare in November, but it was the Crimson Tide that finally put points on the board in the 4th quarter to win 10-0 in their one close game of the year.

Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban announced Barnett' s departure in a statement Thursday. The former five-star recruit from Corona, California, started the opener against Southern California for No. 1 Alabama. Since then, freshman Jalen Hurts has claimed the starting job. Saban had said that Barnett met with him before practice Wednesday with concerns about playing time .

Until this year, Nick Saban has never used a true freshman as his starting quarterback . For the first time ever, Saban is rolling with a true freshman as his starting quarterback . Despite having a true freshman quarterback and a young backfield, Alabama ranks 14th in yards per play -- exactly where

It didn't matter that Hurts had a poor game in the College Football Playoff semifinal against Washington — the rest of the Alabama team was so good the contest was never really in question.

But Hurts had a similarly poor performance in Monday's CFP National Championship game, and it's hard to see how it didn't cost Alabama a second-straight national title.

Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) throws the ball against the Clemson Tigers in the first quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, Hurts had a stellar 30-yard touchdown run to give Alabama a lead with roughly 2 minutes to play, but the best pass of that six-play, 68-yard touchdown drive came from wide receiver ArDarius Stewart on a double-pass play that found O.J. Howard for a 24-yard gain.

Alabama's advantages and weaknesses going into the CFP Championship

  Alabama's advantages and weaknesses going into the CFP Championship Alabama spent the 2016 season looking like one of the biggest juggernauts to roll through not just college football, but all of sports for the year. Blow out wins all season along, even against against ranked teams like USC, Tennessee and Florida during the regular season followed by a relatively easy victory over the Washington Huskies in the CFP semifinal game. Sure LSU gave them a scare in November, but it was the Crimson Tide that finally put points on the board in the 4th quarter to win 10-0 in their one close game of the year.

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Hurts had been so poor passing the ball to that point in the game — a late point in the fourth quarter — that offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian — the element of surprise aside — trusted a receiver to pass the ball downfield more than his starting quarterback.

Can you blame him? Hurts was 13-of-31 for 131 yards and a touchdown Monday — good for a quarterback rating of 25.2.

That's not winning football, even for Alabama.

Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) throws a pass against the Clemson Tigers in the second quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

When Bo Scarbrough left the game with a leg injury in the second half, Hurts' inability to effectively pass in the Alabama offense became all the more apparent.  Alabama was 2-for-15 on third down Monday after starting the contest by converting 2-of-3. Alabama went 3-and-out six times in the second half, though they did get a field goal out of one of those offensive failures.

Clemson's biggest advantages and weaknesses going into the CFP Championship

  Clemson's biggest advantages and weaknesses going into the CFP Championship With another year under his belt, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson is set to take fire after a long, grueling season. Unlike Alabama, Clemson's wins were hard-fought, with Louisville, N.C. State and Florida State being grinder games where victory was far from assured, even before mentioning their shocking one-point loss to Pitt in November. The stumble seemed to stun the Tigers for a spell, but by the time they got to their College Football Playoff semifinal against Ohio State, head coach Dabo Swinney had the team right back into the grove for a 31-0 shutout of the Buckeyes.

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Much will be made of Nick Saban's decision to fire offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin (make no mistake, Saban showed Lane the door) and replace him with Sarkisian, the former Washington and USC head coach and an Alabama offensive analyst, for the most important game of the year.

But it's not as if Kiffin had Hurts playing at an elite level in the Tide's game against Washington.

Perhaps a different voice, a different viewpoint, would help Hurts find his way. Even if it didn't, at least Saban could trust Sarkisian to be prepared for the game, something he clearly felt he couldn't do with Kiffin.

We'll never know the full effects of the OC switch — if there were any — but the common denominator in the situation was Hurts.

It's less-than-enjoyable to pin a loss on an 18-year-old, especially one as affable and talented as Hurts, and he certainly wasn't the only reason Alabama lost Monday, but he was, frankly, the most glaring of those reasons.

Alabama roundly outplayed Clemson for at least the first three quarters of Monday's contest, but the Tide's inability to move the ball in the second half of the game — save for the final offensive drive — left the door open for a Clemson comeback.

The barrage of Alabama 3-and-outs allowed Clemson to run 98 plays Monday. Even what might have been the best defense in college football history can't hold up under that heat.

Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) runs the ball for a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Clemson Tigers in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Saban had never played a true freshman quarterback because of the obvious risk — they don't have experience in the biggest moments. Up until the College Football Playoff, Hurts' talent was so prolific, his wet ears didn't matter.

But that inexperience showed up against Washington, and it showed up again against Clemson.

It seems almost unavoidable that Hurts will get another shot at winning a national championship — he'll probably even get two — and there's no doubt that his play was a major reason why Alabama was playing for the 2016 crown.

There will be 1,000 what-ifs following Alabama's loss, but one thing is clear beyond debate — all of Saban's worst fears about playing a true freshman quarterback came to a head at the worst possible time.

It's a big reason why Clemson is the 2016 national champions.

Kyrgios hoping to do 'major damage' .
After winning three ATP titles in 2016, Nick Kyrgios is optimistic over his chances at the Australian Open and is targeting the second week.World number 14 Nick Kyrgios is in confident mood ahead of the Australian Open and believes he can do "some major damage" at Melbourne Park.

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