Being the head coach often means headaches, and Nick Saban has had his share of his this week with two issues. But Saban has handled these before as Alabama’s coach (and probably before that) and will deal with them.
The first is the almost certain transfer of redshirt quarterback Blake Barnett from Alabama.
The second is the arrest on a misdemeanor charge of having an unlicensed, concealed weapon by linebacker Tim Williams.
Barnett started the Southern Cal game and has been Alabama’s second team quarterback since Jalen Hurts went into that opener against USC and ignited the Crimson Tide to a 52-6 win by throwing for two touchdowns and running for two TDs. Now THAT was a productive second team quarterback and the reason he was elevated to No. 1.
Barnett hadn’t been terrible in his three appearances, but no one thought there was any kind of quarterback battle following the ascension of Hurts.
Prior to the start of the season, Saban had said the quarterback battle was down to two, Cooper Bateman (last year’s backup to Jacob Coker) and Barnett.
In admittedly very little viewing opportunity, the thought here was that Hurts was clearly number one and that Bateman was ahead of Barnett for No. 2. When Barnett got the start against USC, there couldn’t help but be the thought that Saban was throwing Barnett a bone to keep him from transferring. That may or may not have been true, but it was our thought.
Many have questioned Barnett electing to leave after four games into the season, but it may make perfect “business sense” as Saban often talks about, particularly as to players electing to go early into the NFL draft. But it applies to transfers, too, and particularly to quarterbacks because it is not like most positions. The starter is the player, giving way only if his performance lags or he gets injured, other than sitting out mop-up duty.
Barnett may want to transfer to another school, perhaps one in which he can still gain entry this season and have his sit-out year over in time to play by next October. Schools on the quarter system – and they include some in his native California, such as UCLA and Cal – start later and it is believed he would be able to enter one of those at this time. Or he may want to attend a junior college, earn his degree no later than next spring and be able to sign with any school and be eligible immediately.
As for the argument that he is running out on his Alabama teammates, it is logical to conclude that he was not thinking about Alabama. He was thinking about his future.
One way it could impact Alabama is if Hurts – who makes as many plays with his legs as he does with his arm – gets injured. Might Alabama change its quarterback philosophy a bit to limit the vulnerability? If so, that reduces offensive weaponry. And straight dropback quarterbacks can be injured, too.
As it looks now, Bateman is the only alternative, but David Cornwell – who was limited through most of camp after suffering a broken foot – may be rounding back into shape. He was in for a few snaps last week in the win over Kent State, but did not look very mobile. Regardless, he would have some rust.
There is a freshman walk-on, Montana Murphy, 6-3, 201, from famed South Lake (Texas) Carroll, where ex-Tide QB star Greg McElroy played.
The Williams issue is compounded by the incident involving Tide players Cam Robinson and Hootie Jones in Monroe, La., last summer when they were charged with weapons and marijuana violations. Although the charges against them were dismissed, they did not get off Scott free. They had the Saban court to deal with, which was not so lenient.
All facts in Williams’s arrest have not come to light and it is likely by now that Saban knows much more about the situation than we do. Regardless of what he knows, however, we suspect the coach did not consider “good choices and decisions” having been made by Williams.
Unless there is a surprising announcement from Alabama’s athletics department before Saturday evening, when Alabama hosts Kentucky, we will probably have to wait until that 6 p.m. CDT kickoff to know if there is an immediate repercussion, i.e. suspension, for Williams.
Again, based only what we know, this would not seem to be a long term issue for Williams, but it is becoming an exasperating continuation of stupid off-the-field actions of Alabama players.