Jalen Hurd is transferring from the Tennessee Volunteers, and there are a few different potential schools and options the running back has at his disposal.
It’s not that cut-and-dry for the soon to be former Volunteer. There’s always the possibility Hurd could choose to end his college career early and declare for the 2017 NFL Draft.
That would be the wrong choice for the former 4-star running back.
We’re staring down the barrel of the deepest running back class we’ve seen in years. There is a potential for five running backs to go in the first round: Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, Nick Chubb and Royce Freeman. That’s not even taking into consideration the draft stocks of Wayne Gallman, Samaje Perine, Sony Michel or the other star running back for Tennessee, Alvin Kamara, should any or all of them decide to leave school.
If Hurd came out after this season, he’d be pigeonholed as a Day 3 pick at best. So, it’s a pretty simple decision for him. He can either try to make it as a fifth-round pick, or he can transfer, rebuild his resume — whether it’s as a running back, receiver or tight end — and declare for a later NFL Draft.
Hurd isn’t expected to graduate before transferring, which means he will have to sit out a year should he decide to move to an FBS program. It’s also unlikely that he will be permitted to go to an SEC program. With that in mind, here are some potential transfer destinations as to where Hurd could end up.
If Hurd wants to play right away next season, he’d be smart to find a junior college where he could get the reps and work on his versatility as both a wide receiver and tight end. It doesn’t have the shine of a Power Five program, but it’s clear Hurd is trying to re-create himself, and the JUCO route is a great way to do that.
It would be the best option if he’s intent on declaring for the 2018 NFL Draft. Leaving Tennessee for another Division-IA program would mean Hurd would have to sit out the 2017 season, and that would dampen his draft stock. So then, he’d have to come back for the 2018 season and declare for the 2019 NFL Draft to maximize his stock. His name may get buried because he’d be off the national radar, but scouts won’t care about the name of the school he transfers to. They’d only want to see he’s improved on the field and matured away from it.
Jim Harbaugh could work wonders with Hurd. Kareem Walker is supposed to be the future at running back, but academic issues have gotten the freshman off to a rocky start in Ann Arbor. Bringing Hurd in for a national title run in 2018 would be a smart move.
Ideally, Walker will have worked his way into a solid role with the Michigan offense, and Brandon Peters will have taken over the starting job at quarterback. If Hurd stayed at running back with the Wolverines, he’d get the I-formation looks and the taste of the NFL offense he’s been craving in Knoxville. If he moved to tight end, that could work well, too. Harbaugh has put a number of quality tight ends in the league, and Jake Butt is about to be the latest. Michigan could even work Hurd into an offensive weapon role and really diversify his portfolio for NFL executives and scouts to peruse. The Wolverines offered Hurd when Brady Hoke was the head coach.
David Shaw also extended a scholarship offer to Hurd when he was the No. 11 running back in the 2014 recruiting class. Stanford knows how to utilize an athletic, instinctual running back like Hurd. And, like Michigan, the Cardinal could turn Hurd into an all-around offensive weapon similarly to how they’ve incorporated McCaffrey in different phases of the game. Either K.J. Costello or Davis Mills will be running the show of that offense, and Hurd would be a go-to target in the passing game as well as a welcomed option on the ground.
Urban Meyer is preparing to have an extremely young team for the next couple of seasons, and adding Hurd would (hopefully) bring some veteran leadership. More importantly, it would be a chance for Hurd to willingly accept that kind of role with a fresh start under one of the greatest college football coaches ever.
It’s not the pro-style offense Hurd would prefer to be in, but Meyer would find ways to get him the ball just like he has with Curtis Samuel, Mike Weber and freshman Demario McCall. Samuel and Weber would probably be gone by the time Hurd became eligible to play for the Buckeyes, but he would certainly be a valued weapon for either Joe Burrow or Dwayne Haskins. Also, when Hurd went to Columbus for an unofficial visit during the Buckeyes’ game with Michigan in 2012, he loved it there.
Hurd would get a little more of that pro-style flavor with the Cornhuskers. They’re losing Terrell Newby, Jordan Nelson and Graham Nabity to graduation, and Mike Riley could depend on Hurd to be the focal point of the offense for that 2018 season. With Keyshawn Johnson and Jaevon McQuitty likely integrated into the offense by that time, Nebraska could provide a balanced attack with Hurd in the backfield. It could even diversify its passing game by plugging Hurd in at tight end or receiver.
There are a few options for them get Hurd involved, and he did receive an offer from the Cornhuskers in May of 2012 when former Nebraska defensive backs coach Terry Joseph paid him a visit. Obviously, Riley wasn’t in Lincoln then, but that doesn’t mean he’d turn away from Hurd’s athleticism and playmaking ability with the ball in his hands.
There won’t be too many pro-style formations for Hurd in Chapel Hill, but the Tar Heels could use someone with his versatility. Again, if Hurd is serious about switching to either receiver or tight end, Larry Fedora could work him into the fold and have a go-to offensive weapon when taking on Clemson and Florida State — which is always nice to have. However, Elijah Hood , T.J. Logan and Khris Francis will all be gone by then, so Hurd could fit into the North Carolina backfield if he wanted to stay at running back. The Tar Heels offered Hurd a scholarship at the same time Ohio State offered him — about nine days after receiving the Nebraska offer.
As Jimmy Hyams pointed out, Hurd’s father is a trainer in the Los Angeles area, so Hurd could be looking to make a move out to SoCal with either USC or UCLA. The Trojans seem to have found their future with Sam Darnold at quarterback, but Dominic Davis, Ronald Jones II and Aca’Cedric Ware could all be gone by the time Hurd becomes eligible. James Toland IV and Justin Davis will definitely be gone, so Clay Helton could use someone like Hurd to mix into the offense.
The same can be said for UCLA. This is a murkier situation because of Jim Mora’s job security, but Josh Rosen will likely be leaving for the NFL after next season, and the Bruins will need a new identity on offense. Soso Jamabo could leave early, too, so UCLA will have a big need for a big, physical, athletic playmaker like Hurd.