As the fifth Saturday of the college football season approached, the eyes that focused on Kelly Bryant's transfer from Clemson pivoted to Jalen Hurts.
Would the Alabama quarterback leave too?
Midway through the second quarter of the team's blowout win over Louisiana-Lafayette, the answer was clear: Hurts is here to play.
And the Crimson Tide faithful showed their appreciation.
By virtue of his fifth season appearance, Hurts sacrificed the option to take a redshirt in 2018 and leave himself with two years of eligibility. His decision contrasted with that of Bryant, who was unavailable as Clemson earned a narrow victory over Syracuse after Trevor Lawrence exited due to a neck injury.
The diverging routes became fodder for debate. Bryant made a selfish move, while Hurts put the team first. Bryant protected his future, but Hurts failed in that regard. Pick a side and vehemently defend it. That's the protocol.
Context matters, however: Both quarterbacks made the right choice.
Since Nick Saban tabbed Tua Tagovailoa to run the offense, the assumption has been that Hurts will earn his degree in December and then transfer. Though that destination is unclear, the program would likely offer a chance for Hurts to start immediately in 2019.
Following next season, Hurts would have three full years of starting experience and one limited campaign. Regardless of one's feelings about whether an NFL future is likely, all indications are Hurts wants to pursue a professional career as a quarterback.
But no, using a redshirt in 2018 wouldn't have substantially benefited Hurts.
The only reason to shift that opinion is if Hurts ultimately lands with a coach who actually develops quarterbacks and could provide two quality years of tutelage—say, David Cutcliffe at Duke or Dan Mullen at Florida. If not—and it's improbable he does—the tape will be clear by December 2019.
At that point, either he's a pro-caliber quarterback or he's not.
Hurts has too much experience to say otherwise. His progression as a passer, or lack thereof, will be apparent after 40-some games.
That's not to suggest Bryant hasn't played enough. But while 18 starts are plenty for a credible conclusion, that's effectively only half of Hurts' college career. Bryant is a senior, so 2018 would've been his last chance to prove himself at quarterback.
Although his scouting report is detailed, it's not final. Sitting behind Lawrence wasn't going to answer any questions about Bryant's ball placement or ability to recognize coverages.
Regardless of whether he holds NFL aspirations, those dreams are realistic to evaluators or Bryant simply wants to play the position as long as possible, Clemson didn't offer the best chance anymore.
Peter Burns @PeterBurnsESPN
Before you rip into Kelly Bryant for his decision to transfer from Clemson, ask yourself this question.. Would you rather be guaranteed 1 more year to play the game you love or would you be content possibly never taking another snap the rest of your football career Easy choice
Again, the situations were different.
Hurts has multiple routes to playing time, yet Bryant only controlled one avenue—and he understandably decided to pursue that path.
Yes, it would've been ideal for Clemson to have Bryant available when an injury knocked out Lawrence. Alabama will enjoy that luxury with Hurts, the emergency man behind Tagovailoa.
"I think that speaks volumes about [Hurts'] character and just him as a man," center Ross Pierschbacher said, per Alex Byington of the Montgomery Advertiser. "Just to be a part of this team and want to be a part of what we accomplish this year, I just have nothing but the utmost respect for him, and I know a lot of the coaching staff and the players around really just notice that."
Saban deserves credit for keeping Hurts around, and both Alabama players and fans should be grateful for the junior's choice.
But praising Hurts shouldn't be perceived as a dig elsewhere. He can contribute to a championship-caliber team, graduate in December and still hold a starting job somewhere next season.
Not every quarterback is so fortunate.