Although it may have been something of a rocky road for David Cornwell in his quest to become Alabama’s quarterback, not all of the rumored bumps and potholes were true. The truth is that Cornwell came to Bama after having missed the last half of his 2013 senior season at Norman High School in Oklahoma. That resulted in what was basically a season in his true freshman year, 2014.
Cornwell entered The University in January of 2014, which may have given him mental help, but he was limited physically as he recovered from his knee injury and surgery.
There was a wide open competition for the quarterback job in the spring and fall camp of 2015, and Cornwell was one of the names thought to be in the thick of the battle, but through last season he was mired behind Jacob Coker, who eventually won the job; Cooper Bateman, who was the little-used back-up; and Alec Morris, who has since transferred.
The most ridiculous rumor of last fall was that Cornwell was the leader for the starting job, but that he had been demoted because of an argument with Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Lane Kiffin. Cornwell insists the rumor was false.
“I’ve had a great relationship with Coach Kiffin,” Cornwell said during preparation for the College Football Playoff. “I think he’s a great coach. I think he’s going to help us to a championship.”
“Coach Saban is great, too. I’m working closely with him on the scout team. Obviously, it’s not where a quarterback wants to be, but it’s never a bad thing to be working with that guy closely.”
When Alabama begins spring practice, Cornwell will be in the quarterback competition with Bateman, redshirt freshman Blake Barnett, and true freshman Jalen Hurts, who entered Bama for spring classes.
This is Part III in our look at Bama’s quarterback candidates.
Cornwell certainly came to Alabama with outstanding credentials. He was an Elite 11 quarterback who was invited to The Opening and selected to play in the Under Armour All-American Game. Scout ranked him the number 7 quarterback in the nation. As a junior he passed for 2,742 yards and 27 touchdowns. Although a pro-style quarterback, he rushed for 755 yards and 6TDs. He chose Alabama over Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Miami, and Auburn.
He sees this spring much as he saw the situation a year ago. “I feel like I’m in the same position,” Cornwell said. “I was wherever I’m at on the depth chart, next thing you know you find yourself at the top, then in the middle, then it keeps moving around.
“Development as a player, that’s what I’m getting. Here, I think, is really the best place in the country to develop as a quarterback. You’ve got Scott Cochran in the weight room. I think people overlook that. I came in at 245 pounds and I’m at about 230 with 8 per cent less body fat than when I came in. I just look forward to getting better each day.”
The depth chart is a touchy situation around Alabama. Cornwell takes it for what it is, part of the competition.
“All the quarterbacks know that,” he said. “We do a really good job in the quarterback room. We’re all going for one position and we know that. I think we do a really good job in there.
“There is a fine line and sometimes you don’t know what that is. They may be looking for something you don’t know and you’re just out there. You’ve just got to play your best. If you worry about all this stuff, ‘They’re going to make a decision,’ I think that’ll weigh you down. So play your best, let them make a decision, and things shake out how they shake out.”
He said the quarterbacks “have a great relationship. We know we’re going that one position. You don’t need to make it awkward. We’re friends. We’ve got our own dynamic to the room.
“Blake (Barnett) and I are younger and we like shoes and Instagram, all that stuff. We all have our own connections. And Coach Kiffin really brings us together. He’s such a laid-back coach.
“But he really knows how to work us. It’s like something you’ve never seen before. We’re working, but it’s so relaxed, you’re like, ‘Wow, this work day went so quick.’ He’s a one-of-a-kind coach. I really like dealing with him.
“Where he’s brought us as a team, I think that really speaks for itself, let’s be honest. Blake Sims, how he played, Jake Coker, how he’s playing, he’s really got us going. And a Heisman Trophy winner? How many coaches can coach all of us? He tailors it to what Coach Saban wants and what we have as a team. I think he’s done a really good job with that.”
Cornwell said his true freshman year was “mainly about getting healthy, but also a chance to get acclimated and see how practice works, seeing what the coaches want. I was hurt and never got a chance to compete in fall camp the first year (2014).”
He said last spring was “really fun to actually get into competition. And then this year being on scout team with Coach Saban, you don’t have to worry about the plays as much; you have a card to read. So I could go out there, look at the defense, get all the dynamics of that. Coach Saban’s defense is crazy, how they man-match patterns, all that stuff. And seeing that and comparing it to film, like, wow, it’s going to be much easier. The game’s slowing down, really, this year.”
Cornwell has thought about the things he needs to do to win the job as Alabama quarterback in 2016.
He said, “I think just be confident and be myself and go out there and make all the throws. I think he really wants an accurate quarterback, a leader, a guy who can get you down the field.
“These were two great years to learn, my body’s better, and now it’s time to act like [Blake Sims and Jake Coker] and go win the job.”
NEXT: Blake Barnett