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Alabama's Jalen Hurts named ESPN.com's SEC Offensive Player of the Year

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Not staying complacent is key to Alabama's success (1:57)

Nick Saban and Alabama cruised to an SEC title and are focused on back-to-back national championships. (1:57)

Maybe high school prom is overrated.

At least that's what had to be going through Jalen Hurts' mind when he opted to skip it in order to move to Tuscaloosa and compete to be Alabama's starting quarterback. Of course, few thought he'd do that. Heck, few thought he'd even crack the lineup at all in Year 1.

He was a true freshman quarterback at a program run by Nick Saban. It had never happened before, and with Alabama at the top of just about everyone's national championship list, there was no chance that the future Hall of Fame coach was going to put his program in the hands of a guy who should have been at his prom earlier this year.

But Hurts proved all of us wrong and might make proms across the country obsolete to college athletes -- especially quarterbacks.

Days removed from Alabama's third straight SEC title, Hurts is one of the nation's biggest surprises and stands alone as ESPN.com's SEC Offensive Player of the Year. Hurts went from exciting underdog to starter with 3,433 total yards of offense and 34 touchdowns.

The new kid on the block has helped offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin completely change the way Alabama plays when it has the football, as Saban has watched a teenager run the zone-read to near perfection while guiding the Crimson Tide to perfection.

Alabama rumbled through the regular season, winning 12 of 13 games by double digits. In the process, Hurts averaged 264.1 yards per game and 2.6 touchdowns per game. Hurts threw for 2,592 yards and 22 touchdowns to nine interceptions, while ranking second on the team with 841 rushing yards and a team-best 12 touchdowns.

He's a kid -- and I stress kid -- who didn't flinch when he stepped onto the scene at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, against USC (150 total yards and four total touchdowns). He survived a sack-fumble touchdown in the Ole Miss game that sent his team into a 24-3 hole in the second quarter by helping the Tide rip off 23 straight points in their eventual 48-43 win in Oxford.

He overcame an insanely hostile environment in Death Valley to beat LSU with a scintillating 21-yard run in the fourth quarter for the first score of the game. He gets over mistakes like he's been in Tuscaloosa for years.

And he just helped lead Alabama to a 54-16 throttling of Florida in the SEC championship game to send the Tide to the College Football Playoff with the national championship two wins away.

"It takes a special person to come in here and play well, and here we are," Hurts said after the SEC title game, the first media appearance of his Alabama career.

"I grew up as a coach's kid, so I was around the game often. So it's kind of natural to be stoic and calm because that's who I am."

What he is, is fun to watch. Hurts still has a limited playbook and makes his fair share of mistakes. He doesn't throw the deep ball with enough accuracy or positive consistency just yet, and he's turned the ball over 14 times. He's fumbled 10 times this season, with five being picked up by the other team.

So, yeah, he has a long way to go, but he's a true freshman quarterback leading Alabama to an undefeated season. He is sitting shotgun with Nick Saban on the way toward Saban's sixth national championship.

If you correctly process all of that, it's hard to ignore how special this kid is, and how good he really has been in his first year of college football.

"We felt like [Hurts] gave us the best opportunity to be successful because of his skill set and what he could do as a player," Saban said.

"And there's two things that you really can't coach. You can't coach experience, and you can't coach maturity, but this guy has maturity beyond his years."