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Nick Saban says Alabama protected Jalen Hurts late last season

Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) throws a pass against Florida during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Atlanta.(AP Photo/Butch Dill)
AP Photo/Butch Dill

Coaches at any level sometimes have two conflicting goals: First, ensure the team wins; but secondly, continue to develop young players. Alabama coach Nick Saban said his team failed to do the latter with soon-to-be-sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts last season.

“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 said in a radio interview with WJOX-FM in Birmingham, AL via Sporting News on Thursday. “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, as well as how that creates balance for our overall offense and utilizes some of the other skill players that we have.”

Hurts finished his freshman season with a 62.8 completion percentage, 7.3 yards per attempt and 23 touchdowns versus 9 interceptions. He wasn’t as good at the end of the year, though. In his final three games, which includes two playoff contests and the SEC title game, Hurts went just 31-for-65 (47.7 percent) for 5.02 yards per pass while throwing 2 touchdowns. He completed a season-low 41.9 percent of his throws versus Clemson in the national championship.

But with Hurts, Alabama does have a great running quarterback. He rushed for 954 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging 5.0 yards per attempt. Clearly, though, Saban wants to work on Hurts’ passing skills, so the offense isn’t so one-dimensional this fall.

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