The mercurial former University of Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd has finally spoken out on his transition to a new position at a new university.
Hurd, who left the Tennessee program after his junior season in 2016, decided to transfer to Baylor to play wide receiver. In an interview with Baylor media, he explained some of the differences between programs and positions.
Hurd makes a valid point that the time he had to spend on the sideline due to transfer rules last year probably helped him. Instead of learning how to play receiver at a high level in live game action, he had the time to train and learn in a controlled environment, which will probably help him in the long run.
His reasoning for choosing Baylor was interesting, though. He said he “liked what Rhule was doing” at Baylor as head coach, which is interesting considering Rhule went 1-11 in his first season at the helm. There’s a possible pattern emerging here. Maybe Hurd has the innate ability to believe in terrible coaches, help them look better, then leave them on unfriendly terms. More on that theory in a bit.
Hurd also points to injuries as the main reason he decided to switch positions, which, frankly, makes a modicum of sense. Good running backs probably touch the ball 20-30 times a game and are usually tackled by linemen and linebackers that usually weigh more than them. Good wide receivers probably touch the ball 10-15 times a game and are usually tackled by corners or safeties that rarely weigh more than them. Most running backs in the NFL rarely last longer than a few years playing their best football for this exact reason. And given his history of head injuries, it’s no surprise that Hurd saw the writing on the wall that he would need to make a change if he was going to play football for an extended period of time. Now, whether or not he will make the NFL as a wide receiver remains to be seen. He certainly has the size at 6 feet 4 inches tall (the same size as Randy Moss and Calvin Johnson), but there is obviously much more to being a receiver than being tall. If he’s going to prove he can do it, though, playing against defenses in the Big XII is as good a place as any.
Perhaps the most interesting thing he had to say in his interview was his not-so-subtle dig at his former head coach Butch Jones. When asked about some of the biggest differences between coaching staffs, he commented that he liked how “straight-up” his new coaching staff was. Jones was known for telling people whatever they wanted to hear, then proceeding to do whatever he wanted. Many believed this was actually the main reason Hurd decided to transfer to begin with. Which brings me back to the theory I mentioned earlier.
Rhule probably knew exactly what Hurd wanted and realized that, with his depleted roster at Baylor from suspensions and transfers, he could provide exactly the opportunity Hurd wanted. There’s obviously nothing inherently wrong with that, but for all the good things Hurd has to say about Rhule, he probably believed the same thing about Jones at some point, too. As far as making these coaches look better, Hurd pretty much helped keep Jones’s offense afloat for three years. He finished his career at Tennessee just 441 yards short of the all-time school rushing record, and outside of some memorable fumbles against Georgia, he was pretty clutch in most big games. At receiver, Hurd clearly has the size and athleticism to contribute, but transitioning between running back and receiver is no small task. Fortunately for Hurd, if he can crack the starting lineup, he will be lining up opposite of Denzel Mims, who had over 1,000 yards receiving last season. It also doesn’t hurt he’ll be in an offense that threw the ball over 38 times a game last season. With all this in mind, there is a chance Hurd could have a successful first season at receiver to make Rhule look like a genius.
Now, whether or not Hurd and Rhule’s relationship will end as poorly as Hurd and Jones’s relationship remains to be seen. Given everything else that has gone wrong at Baylor the last few years, though, it wouldn’t be very surprising if it did.