Last August, The Tuscaloosa News published a story in which we tracked every SEC quarterback signed for the past decade. The main statistical takeaway from that story was that 62.4 percent of the high school, junior college and transfer quarterbacks who join an SEC program — roughly five out of every eight — would leave before exhausting their eligibility. There were also three other relevant findings — first, the SEC rate appeared to be similar to national numbers (although time and space constraints prevented us from running a full study of the entire FCS, random sampling indicated that the number was fairly constant.) The second finding was that with increased relaxation and usage of the NCAA graduate-transfer rule, those numbers were rising. The third, at least at the SEC level, didn't have a fully developed sample size but appeared to be true, logically and anecdotally: When a team had a sophomore or freshman win the job and perform well — a Tim Tebow or Johnny Manziel — it became very difficult for those programs to find and retain quarterbacks content to finish their careers as near-certain backups.
There should be no surprise, then, that, in near-simultaneous announcements, Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year, the SEC Freshman of the Year and the first-team All-SEC quarterback and Alabama's two backup quarterbacks, both graduates, would be exploring their transfer options. Statistically, it would have been more surprising if Cooper Bateman and David Cornwell had chosen to stick around.
There should be no ill feelings toward either one. Both have been a part of championship teams, earned their degrees and are entitled to explore their options. Most Alabama fans probably share that sentiment — except for one thing.
This is how things work in Tuscaloosa, just to cite a hypothetical example. 1) The weather turned cold on Wednesday night. 2) As a result, some family breadwinner probably went to one of the local megastores for hardware and home goods and bought a space heater. 3) Most people probably said "that will make things warmer." 4) But a few immediately had the immediate reaction that "that thing might have a core meltdown and start a cold fusion loop that would result in a huge nuclear explosion with a 20-mile radius of destruction — and what would THAT do to recruiting?!?!$!!"
In other words, (some) people are so nervous that every action is, in their minds, assured of creating the worst possible opposite action in a grim combination of Newton's Law and Murphy's Law. Thus, transferring quarterbacks immediately was translated to mean "no backup quarterback for the College Football Playoff."
In fact, while neither quarterback nor Nick Saban has made it official, the expectation at UA is that both will finish out the season — including a potential championship game. Both were at the UA Football Complex on Wednesday, working out with teammates. A crisis does not seem to be looming on the horizon. If you must worry about something, worry about the continued attrition in the UA defensive backfield.
There is nothing wrong with caution. Nick Saban is the High Priest of both caution and preparation for a congregation that combines a lust for endless victory with a dreadful foreboding that the current 25-game winning streak is as fragile as a Tiffany tree ornament. (If you don't believe it, check out Alabama fans' social media in the first five minutes of the Florida game.) There will probably be more meltdowns with more than three weeks of off-time before the Washington game — even for events that are predictable.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.