Ideal Scholarship Roster Number: 4-5
Likely Returning Number: 3-4
Remaining Ideal Number: 0
Top remaining targets: None
Arizona State's quarterback situation in 2017 is now a whole lot more interesting following the news that former five-star prospect Blake Barnett is immediately eligible to play immediately as first reported by SunDevilSource.
Barnett, a five-star recruit in the 2015 class, committed to the Sun Devils during a December in-home visit with ASU coach Todd Graham, then-offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey and then-wide receivers coach Jay Norvell. Lindsey and Norvell have since departed, taking jobs as Nevada's head coach and Auburn's offensive coordinator, respectively. But Barnett remained and is already enrolled and attending classes at ASU as arguably the top offensive prospect in the class.
Barnett's committed came on Graham's birthday, complete with a cake and all. At the time it was the first commitment for the program since July 29, a 128 day span.
Make no mistake, it was the biggest commitment the Sun Devils received all year.
Quarterback play was spotty for ASU in 2016. Sophomore quarterback Manny Wilkins completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 2,329 yards with 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 10 games. He also ran for 246 yards and five touchdowns, but had a playing style that exposed himself to some big hits and played much of the season hurt, with ankle, turf toe and shoulder injuries.
ASU's young offensive line didn't help Wilkins nearly enough, a player who already has at times displayed a tendency to want to evade the pocket prematurely.
Redshirt freshman backup quarterback Brady White started against UCLA a week after Wilkins was hurt on Oct. 1 at USC. White had moments of impressive play in the Sun Devils' win, but suffered a broken right foot near the end of the game. It ended White's season and will keep him out for the spring as well. The team's third returning quarterback, redshirt freshman Bryce Perkins, suffered a fractured vertebrae in his neck in August that cut short his season before it had begun. He was only officially cleared to resume full football activity this week.
ASU ended up starting true freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole in one game, at Oregon. He completed 28 of 55 attempts on the season for 388 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions. Sterling-Cole showed a lot of promise but also demonstrated how early he is in his development as a quarterback and familiarity with the ASU scheme.
Wilkins, White, Perkins and Sterling-Cole all have two or more years of remaining eligibility and the Sun Devils also signed local 2017 highly regarded prospect Ryan Kelley out of Basha High in Chandler. Wilkins, White, Sterling-Cole and Kelley were all four-star prospects in high school.
Even so, Graham and Lindsey decided they wanted to try to bolster the position group from outside the program.
Cue former five-star prospect Blake Barnett.
At Santiago High School in Corona, California, Barnett became the No. 30 overall recruit and No. 2 quarterback in the 2015 class. He settled on Alabama over a rash of scholarship offers and, after redshirting in 2015, started for the Crimson Tide at the outset of the 2016 season as a redshirt freshman.
Alas, Barnett lost his starting job to Jalen Hurts early in the season, and elected to transfer after just four games. He finished his Alabama career 11 of 19 for 219 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions. Against USC in the season opener Barnett completed 5 of 6 passes for 100 yards and one touchdown.
Barnett ended up at Palomar College in San Marcos, California, where he did not play football.
Barnett selected ASU over Cal, Oregon and Washington State after his official visit to the school, which was reportedly his third trip to the school in a matter of several months.
Barnett has three years of remaining eligibility and will now be reunited with former Alabama wide receivers coach Billy Napier, who in recent days was named ASU's new offensive line coach. The two should have an established understanding and working relationship.
At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Barnett was an undeniably elite quarterback prospect coming out of high school. He earned MVP honors at the Elite 11 Camp in 2014, which is by far the most prestigious quarterback camp in the country annually and part of Nike's The Opening.
With very good mobility for a pocket passer, Barnett has terrific physical tools. He's big and lanky with a plus arm and enough mobility to be able to run any zone read or run-pass option offense, or even designed quarterback draw or power. If there's a skill drawback, his delivery is a bit long, which can keep the ball from getting as quickly as optimal to its target. This is especially something to watch in quick game throws and perimeter screens.
Barnett is more in the mold of the shotgun style passers we've seen in recent years, including against ASU in 2016: bigger bodied players with big arms and the ability to get the ball out quickly. He's also capable of running in the way Colorado uses its quarterback on designed plays, or as a play extension quarterback similar to Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes.
The Sun Devils figured to have an open quarterback battle continuing into 2017 because Wilkins didn't do enough to lock the job up. But with White on the shelf for the foreseeable future, Perkins contemplating a transfer before his injury and the youth of Sterling-Cole, ASU went all in on Barnett.
At this point, he has to be considered as having as good odds as any of the others at emerging as the Sun Devils starter this season.
The Sun Devils have a young and developing offensive line that should be improved next season and could return their top two running backs, Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage. They have an emerging star at wide receiver, N'Keal Harry, and a young tight end who is among the better athletes at the position in the Pac-12, JayJay Wilson. They also have two high profile transfers at wide receiver who sat out the 2016 season, Ryan Newsome from Texas and John Humphrey Jr. from Oklahoma.
Offensively, ASU could be poised to take a step forward in 2017, particularly as long as one of their quarterbacks demonstrates he's ready for big time Pac-12 football.
Barnett is now going to get an opportunity to show that he's ready for such a step at ASU.
Scout.com National Recruiting Analyst Greg Biggins evaluation on Blake Barnett
"Barnett is a high upside guy with unlimited potential. He has an NFL body right now and has all the physical tools you could want including a live, accurate arm and plus athleticism. He had a long release coming out and that was the one thing we saw that he needed to tighten but he was consistent with it and was able to repeat his delivery. For a big kid, Barnett can really run and is able to not just buy time in the pocket but run for big yards on designed quarterback draws and zone read plays. His worth ethic is off the charts and he's a kid who has a strong desire to succeed and make it to the League (NFL). He's a natural leader as well and very respected from his teammates. If he can quickly pick up the ASU offense, there's no reason why he can't compete for playing time right away.
"The big unknown for Barnett is how good will he be when it comes to making quick decision and reading a complex defense. He never had to do it much in H.S, if his first or second guy was covered, he could just take off and run. Having great physical tools is big but studying quarterbacks, the truly great ones are the guys who can make the game slow down for them and make lighting fast decisions with all kinds of chaos going on around them. If Barnett can master this, he'll be a special player for the Sun Devils."