Alabama junior quarterback Jalen Hurts spoke to reporters Saturday afternoon for the first time since the minutes following January's overtime victory over Georgia in the national championship game.
He didn't hold back.
The 6-foot-2, 218-pounder voiced frustration with the attention the Crimson Tide's quarterback competition between him and sophomore Tua Tagovailoa is receiving, with not even head coach Nick Saban avoiding some wrath. Hurts has guided Alabama to a 26-2 record as the starter, but he was replaced at halftime against the Bulldogs and Tagovailoa rallied the Tide from a 13-0 deficit to the 26-23 triumph.
"This is a situation that is uncontrollable," Hurts said in a six-minute interview inside Bryant-Denny Stadium. "The coaches can't control this situation. They can tell you the plays, but as far as the other variations to it, they don't control it, honestly. Ever since the game, they've kind of wanted it to play out.
"They kind of, I guess, didn't think it was a thing or tried to let it die down like there wasn't something there, because it's always been the elephant in the room."
The comments by Hurts certainly stole the show at Alabama's "Fan Day" at Bryant-Denny, which also included the second preseason practice and the only one open to the public.
Alabama's starting quarterback for 2018 has been a hot topic since the title game at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and it heightened this spring. Averion Hurts, Jalen's father, said in April that if his son didn't win the job, he would become "the biggest free agent in college football history."
In May, while speaking to his middle school in Hawaii, Tagovailoa said that had he not played against Georgia, he would have transferred. The 6-1, 218-pound Tagovailoa competed in eight games last season but did not get in the 24-6 thumping of Clemson in the Sugar Bowl national semifinal.
Those instances followed the rather tepid news surrounding the quarterback competition during spring practices due to a hand injury that limited Tagovailoa, but it was bound to receive more attention once preseason practice rolled around. Hurts threw fuel on the fire Saturday.
"No one came to me the whole spring, coaches included, and asked me how I felt," Hurts said. "No one asked me what was on my mind or how I felt about the things that were going on. Now we're trying to handle the situation, and it's kind of late.
"It's too late. The narrative has already been created."
Hurts and Tagovailoa combined for 28 touchdown passes and only three interceptions for last season's national champions.
At SEC Media Days last month, Saban was asked whether he thought Hurts would be with the team for the Sept. 1 opener against Louisville in Orlando, Florida. Saban responded, "I have no idea. I expect him to be there."
Hurts, who is scheduled to graduate in December, took issue with that Saturday as well.
"I was kind of shocked that he said that," he said. "I told him in June that I was going to be here."
Tagovailoa also met with reporters Saturday but did not provide any fireworks. He insisted he is not focused on winning the job but rather doing whatever is most important for the team.
There wasn't even a hint of frustration during his six-minute interview.
"We don't talk about any quarterback controversy at practice," Tagovailoa said. "Jalen and I don't even bring it up. We're just looking to get each other better.
"There are no negative contingencies. We want to be positive, because the team looks at that."
Saban spoke after Friday's first preseason practice and again Saturday morning before the quarterbacks were made available. He was not asked about Hurts and Tagovailoa following the first workout, but it became a prominent topic during Saturday's news conference.
To the point that Saban started to become agitated.
"You guys are totally fixed on somebody having to be first team and somebody having to be second team," Saban said. "Tell me why. If there are people on our team who can contribute, why wouldn't we utilize their abilities in some form or fashion?
"We put in a guy on third down who can rush the passer, but he's not a starter. I guess at quarterback that doesn't matter in your mind."
An estimated crowd of 3,000 attended Alabama's "Fan Day," with Saban easily drawing the longest autograph line. The two players with the longest lines were Tagovailoa and sophomore receiver DeVonta Smith, who connected for the winning 41-yard touchdown strike against Georgia.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.