Saban: Hurts has made 'great strides' in developing his passing game

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John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports / Action Images

Praise isn't always easy to come by from the likes of Nick Saban, so Jalen Hurts better start stuffing those feathers in as many hats as possible.

Hurts established himself as one of the brightest stars in last year's freshman class by earning SEC Offensive Player of the Year and SEC Freshman of the Year honors, but, not surprisingly, the accolades weren't enough for Alabama's patriarch Saban to rest on.

Instead, Saban set about making sure his quarterback increases his passing ability this offseason in order to compliment his above-average running abilities, and the 65-year-old spoke to ESPN on Saturday about his progress.

"The big goal in the offseason for Jalen was to become a more efficient, effective passer," Saban said. "We didn't ask him to do a whole lot in that area last year because we didn't want to put too much on him … but that was the goal in the offseason."

Saban made it clear he recognizes Hurts' ability to run the ball at any given time, but he also stressed the importance of being multi-dimensional and not solely relying on the running element to be successful.

"We have to be able to create balance and make explosive plays in the passing game … We need to learn how to make these plays and he's very capable and he's made great strides in the offseason, and I'm excited for the season that our offense can have because of his leadership, as well as his improvement as a passer."

It's not like Hurts was a poor passer last season, as he completed 240-of-382 passes for 2,780 yards and 23 touchdowns with just nine interceptions. If he has made a considerable jump in skill in that regard, then Alabama could be an even bigger nightmare for opponents in 2017.