AP Photo/David Goldman

Jalen Hurts drove through the night a year ago to arrive on Alabama's campus.

His reward: Suiting up that same day to run the Crimson Tide's scout team and help prepare the defense for Clemson star quarterback Deshaun Watson. First, he made an impression on the veteran defensive stars, and then they made him pay.

"You've got A'Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed and Reuben Foster and all those guys," Hurts said Saturday, two days before the title game rematch. "They were like, 'Who is this guy?' They didn't know who I was. They had no clue who I was."

They didn't care for it much when he made a few plays running or passing.

"A'Shawn and Jarran were like, 'We've got to end this,'" Hurts said. "So they started hitting me and I got right back up, and that made them want to hit me some more.

"That was fine. Just a few funny moments I can look back on."

Hurts emphasizes that he wasn't trying to play Watson, really. Just being Hurts, a mobile, strong-armed quarterback who gave the Tide's defense the most comparable look available.

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

A year later, Hurts is the Southeastern Conference offensive player of the year and trying to join Oklahoma's Jamelle Holieway as the only true freshman quarterbacks to lead their teams to a national title.

He's not trying to be Watson this time either.

"I'm just going to be myself," Hurts said.