Mocs well aware of quarterback Jalen Hurts' many abilities for Alabama

Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, left, scores a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Alabama has a lot of guys who can make plays on the offensive side of the ball.

But one truly makes the team go. That's quarterback Jalen Hurts.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is the next opponent attempting to slow the Crimson Tide offense, led by the 6-foot-2, 209-pounder, the first true freshman to start at quarterback for Alabama in 32 years.

Hurts has 2,032 passing yards and 735 rushing yards, with 27 total touchdowns - atypical numbers for Nick Saban-coached teams typically dependent on athletes at running back and receiver and a stout offensive line.

As usual, Alabama does have all that. Running backs Damien Harris, Josh Jacobs and Bo Scarbrough have 1,584 yards and nine touchdowns among them. Receivers Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart have combined for 1,229 yards and 13 touchdowns through the air.

But the quarterback is the one who Hurts opponents the most this year.

"He's not just a game manager. That's kind of been their M.O.: Get a guy in there, don't screw it up and get it to our playmakers," UTC coach Russ Huesman said. "This kid's unbelievable. He can run; he can throw; he has unbelievable quicks.

"The biggest thing is he has unbelievable composure and looks like he's been doing it forever. Nothing rattles him; he's a heck of a player, as good as there is around the country. He does everything really, really good and some things outstanding. He's not your game manager of the past, by any stretch of the imagination."

UTC players also were generous with praise for Hurts, but they didn't go too far. Keeping him in the pocket seems to be a big part of the the Mocs' game plan.

"He does a really good job," safety Lucas Webb said. "He has a good feel for the game, feel for his line, his blocking. He just makes plays. I wouldn't say he's a scrambling quarterback, but he definitely has the speed to hurt you if you don't keep contain and don't tackle well."

Senior Nakevion Leslie, who leads the Mocs in tackles with 88, said playing in the Southern Conference against some dual-threat options has helped prepare the team for that style. The key is being in the right place and making the play when the opportunity presents itself.

"We have to go into the game keeping an eye on him," Leslie said. "We have to try to do some things up front with our D-line and make sure he doesn't escape the pocket and have any big runs against us."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.