NORMAN — Jalen Hurts is expected to be Oklahoma’s next starting quarterback.

But the one person who will make the final decision is far from naming a starter. On Friday, coach Lincoln Riley reiterated that there is a competition between Hurts and Tanner Mordecai for the opportunity to replace Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray.

Riley announced no timeline, but said he expects to name a starter during fall camp. In Riley’s recent history, Baker Mayfield was named the starter on Aug. 24 in 2015. Murray was named the starter on Aug. 22 in 2018.

Hurts — who competed against Tua Tagovailoa for Alabama’s job — said he is taking “the same approach” to how he prepares for OU’s fall camp, which begins Saturday.

“They say different animal, same beast,” Hurts said. “I’m on a different team with the same goals.”

Hurts made news at Alabama’s media day last year when he was vocal about the handling of the quarterback competition. He shied from any controversy in Norman on Friday.

Here was an example of the exchange between Hurts and a reporter when asked about the Sooners’ vacant quarterback position.

Question: “What do you have to do to win this quarterback competition?”

Hurts: “That’s a question for coach Riley.”

Question: “What do you think you still have to improve upon?”

Hurts: “That’s a question for coach Riley.”

Hurts has experienced some ups and downs on college football’s biggest stage. While he left his former school on good terms, he said the adversity helped him. He said he’s stronger, wiser and more mature, and added that he’s had plenty of learning experiences to help him get better.

He also has had to mesh with his new teammates in a compressed time period. He has only been in Norman for seven months.

“I’ve came in here with the intention of trying to be the best version of myself and earning the respect of my teammates. I think they’ve accepted me. They look at me as their leader,” Hurts said. “It’s just a well-respected relationship between me and those guys. I try to go out there and set the right example. I try to lead the right way, can’t be a hypocrite. I have to set the right example if I’m going to lead those guys and try and demand excellence out of them, so just try to take the right steps and attack everyday with them.”

He also has been in a race to build a relationship with Riley.

“Having a head coach as your position coach does change a lot. (It is) a little different because my last coach, coach (Nick) Saban, was a defensive-minded coach, so maybe it wasn’t as hands-on from him. But he dang sure had a big impact on me,” Hurts said. “Here with coach Riley, I’m anxious to see how that goes throughout the season as far as communication during games, whatever it is. I’m anxious to see how it goes.”

Hurts said his relationship with Riley “has really grown.”

“I’d say you have to force it because of the short time I’m here and how much I have to take in before we get into game play,” he said. “This relationship, I really appreciate it. Definitely a different relationship from coaches I’ve had in the past, but I think that relationship can take us a long way. I think it can take this team a long way.”

Riley had multiple years to teach Mayfield and Murray his system. Everything has been compressed with Hurts.

“To me, the story’s not so much of trying to get him caught up learning the offense. It’s more trying to build the relationship and trust that a lot of times takes years and years, whether that’s trust with me, with other coaches, with the players, that to me is the whole deal,” Riley said. “I think if that can be developed at a high level, the scheme stuff will come. We can get that taught.

“Jalen’s been in a lot of different offenses, (with) a lot of different coordinators. He’s seen a lot of ball. The more intangible part of it, if you will, is probably the bigger key.”

Eric Bailey


Twitter: @ericbaileyTW

Sports Writer

Eric covers the University of Oklahoma football and men’s basketball teams. A Haskell Indian Nations University graduate, he has been a member of the Tulsa World sports staff for 12 years. Phone: 918-581-8391