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Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts: Scouting Reports From Teammates and Rivals

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As Louisiana State and Oklahoma prepare to play Saturday in a duel between two of America’s best college quarterbacks, it’s clear that no one will be surprised if the signal callers have dazzling moments.
Louisiana State quarterback Joe Burrow, left, and Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts both started their college careers elsewhere.
Louisiana State quarterback Joe Burrow, left, and Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts both started their college careers elsewhere.Credit...Stephen Lew/USA Today Sports, via Reuters, Jerome Miron, via USA Today Sports, via Reuters
Alan Blinder

By

  • Dec. 27, 2019

ATLANTA — One of the two quarterbacks, Joe Burrow of Louisiana State, just won the Heisman Trophy by the largest margin in the award’s history.

The other, Jalen Hurts of Oklahoma, in what will be his sole season as a Sooner, has became not just his team’s leading passer but also its leading rusher.

Together, they accounted for almost 10,000 yards of offense this season. And when their teams, which possess the two most powerful offenses in college football, collide in Saturday’s Peach Bowl with a spot in the national championship game at stake, the outcome will almost certainly hinge on Burrow and Hurts, two stars who began their college careers elsewhere.

In interviews on Thursday, players and coaches for L.S.U. and Oklahoma offered scouting reports on the two quarterbacks — and even contemplated how they would try to defend against their own signal caller. The interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Total offense: 5,004 yards

Yards per game: 384.9

Passing touchdowns: 48

Rushing yards: 289

Points responsible for: 308

2019 Heisman Trophy winner

Alex Grinch, defensive coordinator, Oklahoma: There’s really no areas of deficiency. His ability to drive the ball downfield, get explosive through the air, find the open man, he’s not fooled by coverage. And then the ability to extend plays with his feet — if and when, early in the down, you’ve shown the ability to cover up wide receivers. It just makes for a real challenge. What’s the magic coverage? It doesn’t exist. What’s the magic blitz? It doesn’t exist.

Pat Fields, safety, Oklahoma: A lot of guys don’t talk about his running ability, but he’s a great runner with the ball in his hands. He can extend plays — there was that play against Georgia that went for like 70 yards — and that’s the type of quarterback he is. He’s phenomenal throwing the ball, but he’s also phenomenal running the ball, can extend plays, good at scrambling, good at throwing on the run. He’s really a complete quarterback.

Lincoln Riley, head coach, Oklahoma: He’s very comfortable in their schemes, does a great job getting the ball out of his hands, very accurate passer. He’s made so many huge plays outside the pocket this year, extending time, whether it’s taking off or whether he’s making plays on the move, that’s where he’s really hurt people. Plays a lot of the style that Baker Mayfield did for us — very, very similar in a lot of ways, and it’s very, very effective and very difficult to defend.

Kristian Fulton, cornerback, L.S.U.: He has so many weapons. With Joe, you’ve just got to try your best. Every throw, he can make. It’s really tough, and I know it’s tough game-planning against him.

Hurts: I have a lot of respect for Joe Burrow. I think he’s handled this season really well, been very consistent all season from what I’ve seen. I think he’s done great in executing and being efficient in what they do.

Total offense: 4,889 yards

Yards per game: 376.1

Passing touchdowns: 32

Rushing yards: 1,255

Points responsible for: 308

2019 Heisman Trophy runner-up

Burrow: He’s a really good player who can beat you with his arm and his legs, and he’s a quiet guy who just keeps his nose down and works really hard. I respect those guys.

Dave Aranda, defensive coordinator, L.S.U.: In critical spots, he turns it on, and that’s always been the case with him. He’s got a cool demeanor about him. When things are going good or going bad, you still have to be on the ball versus him because he’s not going to get fazed, he’s not going to be disrupted.

If you put people more on the run game to defend him, then you have less numbers on the back end to defend No. 2 (wide receiver CeeDee Lamb) and No. 14 (wide receiver Charleston Rambo). In the league they’re coming from, it’s three-man rush, so the receivers are doing these deep ovals and no one’s touching them and they’re just running free and they find areas, and he’s able to maneuver through a three-man rush and throw it up. That’s one thing, and that’s concerning because those are big plays.

The more concerning thing is when there is tight coverage and they are pressed, which is not very often, and he’s able to find the window and throw it in there. That’s what shakes you a little bit because that did not show up when we played him in the past.

Joe Brady, passing game coordinator, L.S.U.: He’s hard to defend because you’ve got a guy who is a dynamic quarterback: He can make all of the throws, he can sit in the pocket and make all the reads, he can move around, he can scramble, he can keep plays alive, keep drives alive. And he’s extremely dynamic as a runner.

When you’ve got a quarterback that you’ve got to defend almost as if he’s a running back, but then you’ve got a guy who’s a quarterback who can make every throw, that’s why he was at the Heisman ceremony. That’s why he’s been so successful for so many years.

Fields: It’s hard because he can beat you both ways. It’s good I don’t have to prepare to play against him.

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