Blake Barnett, who entered The University of Alabama in January after a stellar career at Santiago High in Corona, Calif., is one of at least five who will be competing for the Crimson Tide quarterback job when spring practice begins in March. Logically, he would start out on the depth chart (if there were a depth chart) behind Jake Coker, Alec Morris, Cooper Bateman, and David Cornwell.
Bama Coach Nick Saban got a two-part question from a reporter following signing day. The first part noted that four quarterbacks are on the team, so why is there a need to sign a quarterback in every class. The second part was whether a true freshman, i.e. Barnett, might possibly be the starter.
Saban went right to the most interesting, whether the freshman might earn the job. “I wouldn’t rule that out at all,” he said. “If he's the best player, why would we not play him? That's like saying a guy is from California so we should not play him because he's from California. We wouldn't have recruited him.
“If the guy's the best player, we're going to play him. Just like Julio Jones was the best player when he was a wide receiver as a freshman and we played him. Amari Cooper was. Trent Richardson was. If a guy's ready to play and he's the best player, that means he's done something to deserve the right to play.”
Saban also went into the reasons for signing a quarterback in every class being based on whether there are enough significant candidates. He also pointed out that quarterback is a position where a player who sees himself out of the mix is likely to transfer. (And he specifically mentioned that being a possibility when a quarterback is beaten out by a younger player.) The bottom line was that he might recruit one, there is a possibility that there would be a year when it would not be necessary to sign a quarterback, and that there also might be circumstances in which he would try to sign two.
In this class, though, Saban signed one: Blake Barnett, a 6-5, 205-pound five-star prospect who was ranked the nation’s third best quarterback by Scout.com.
Barnett had a fabulous career at Santiago High in Corona, Calif. He passed for 3,404 yards and 23 touchdowns in 11 games for Coach Jeff Steinberg in 2014. He also rushed for 479 yards and seven scores. As a junior he passed for 2,332 yards and 22 TDs and had 695 rushing yards (7.6 per carry) with 13 touchdowns.
Before his senior season he was named MVP of the 2014 Elite 11 Quarterback Competition and was invited to the prestigious “The Opening.” Post-season, he quarterbacked his team to victory in the 2015 Under Armour All-America Game.
He entered The University in January and will participate in spring practice.
He said, “I’m really excited to be here. Been here about a month now, but the transition is great. Getting along with the team very well. Chemistry among the team is welcoming and makes everything easier on us midyear grads. It makes everything easier getting along with my roommates so well. We’re all in the same scenario; we all came early from high school. We’re in the same place for the most part. Similar classes, doing the same weight-lifting. The transition has been a lot easier than I thought and so far I’ve had a really great time.”
One thing Barnett gets is the process.
He isn’t biting on a question about the competition.
“Right now I’m just focused on getting down with the playbook, getting stronger, and preparing myself just for the season as much as possible,” he said. “The depth chart is something I’m not worried about. I want to improve myself and my game as much as I can.
“Coming from high school to here is a big change, so I’m going to try to get in transition as best as possible and get familiar with the coaches and my teammates.
“My main goal is to compete for a spot, but right now that’s big picture things. The small picture I’m focusing on right now is to get the playbook down and take it step by step.”
Barnett pointed out that “All the quarterbacks are in the same situation since last year was Coach Kiffin’s (Lane Kiffin, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach) first year, so it’s somewhat new to all of them. Obviously, they are more familiar with it that I am, so they can help me along the way.”
Barnett said the most difficult thing to learn is terminology. “A lot of the concepts are similar to what we have run in camps and in high school,” he said. “[Now] there are a lot more responsibilities with the line, the receivers, the play calls, the defense. It’s a lot more complex and the terminology is always going to be different when you are moving from one offense to another. It’s difficult, but it’s something that I look forward to taking on the challenge.”
Barnett got the “strengths and weaknesses” question.
As for strength, Barnett said, “The biggest thing I consider myself as a pocket passer with the ability to extend the play. I don’t want to be categorized as a dual threat, specifically running quarterback, but I like to think that I can take advantage – pick apart a defense throwing the ball and if need be running the ball.”
On the other side, he said, “Weakness is getting familiar with this offense and preparing as best as possible.”
He also said he hoped to have his weight up to “around 215-220; that’s ideal.”