When Alabama transfer Blake Barnett announced his decision to commit to Arizona State in December, the former Crimson Tide signal-caller hoped to be able to make an impact in 2017. It turns out, Barnett will have a chance to make his presence felt sooner than he thought.
According to a source close to the development, Barnett has been granted a Relief Waiver filed on his behalf by ASU that will make him immediately eligible to compete for the Sun Devils' first game in 2017.
In order to be granted this waiver, it has to be demonstrated beyond just football reasons why a transfer has taken place in a manner that would allow for the student-athlete to play earlier than one year removed from the initiation of the transfer. Barnett made this extenuating circumstances waiver request and it was granted by the the NCAA today, per a source close to the development.
Barnett started the first game of the season for the Crimson Tide in 2016, but departed the program after four games after true freshman Jalen Hurts beat out Barnett for Alabama's starting job. Per NCAA rules, Barnett was initially expected to sit out the first four games of the 2017 season before becoming eligible this season, but the Legislative Relief Waiver makes him eligible immediately.
The 6-foot-5, 211-pound Barnett completed 11-of-19 passes for Alabama over the course of three games in 2016, throwing two touchdowns and no interceptions. Barnett took the first reps of the season in the Crimson Tide's 52-6 win over USC, but was replaced after two series by Hurts.
Barnett left the program after just four games, returning home to California where he enrolled at Palomar College. Barnett did not play at Palomar College, though, and began looking at potential FBS transfer opportunities upon returning home. After considering various Pac-12 options, Barnett committed to ASU on December 5 on an in-home visit from head coach Todd Graham.
Barnett visited ASU unofficially during the 2016 season and took an official visit to ASU over the first weekend of December before settling on his decision. At the time of his in-home visit, Graham was joined by former ASU offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey and former wide receivers coach Jay Norvell. Lindsey left the program in January to become the offensive coordinator at Auburn while Norvell left shortly after Barnett's commitment to become the head coach at Nevada.
Barnett officially signed with the Sun Devils during the mid-year signing period and enrolled early at ASU in January, making him eligible to participate in spring practices. Barnett will now enter the spring slate with an opportunity to compete for the starting job from day one.
The Sun Devils return 2016 starting quarterback, junior Manny Wilkins, as well as three other quarterbacks, sophomores Brady White, Bryce Perkins and Dillon Sterling-Cole. Wilkins, White and Sterling-Cole all started games for ASU in 2016, while Perkins missed the entire season with an injury. Perkins tweeted Monday evening that he was now cleared to resume football activities after suffering a neck injury in fall camp.
Led by Wilkins, the Sun Devils began the 2016 season 4-0, but finished the year dropping seven of the team's final eight games, including six in a row to end the season. Wilkins suffered various injuries in 2016, including a sprained ankle against USC in October that forced him to miss the Sun Devils' 23-20 victory over UCLA. In that contest, White made his first career start, but suffered a season-ending foot injury that forced ASU to burn Sterling-Cole's redshirt.
Barnett is one of five quarterbacks currently on ASU's roster, and the Sun Devils expect to sign local four-star prospect and Scout300 recruit Ryan Kelley on Wednesday.
Earlier Monday, ASU officially announced the hire of former Alabama wide receivers' coach Billy Napier as the program's new offensive coordinator. Having spent time together with the Crimson Tide, Barnett and Napier are familiar with one another and Barnett tweeted about the hire when news of the development broke over the weekend.
Barnett is not the only transfer who is eligible to compete for the Sun Devils in 2017. Wide receivers John Humphrey Jr. and Ryan Newsome, transfers from Oklahoma and Texas, respectively, are also immediately eligible after sitting out the 2016 season following their transfers.
A former five-star recruit and the No. 2 quarterback recruit nationally in the Class of 2015, Barnett was re-classified as a four-star prospect by Scout in the 2017 recruiting class following his enrollment at Palomar College.
The Sun Devils open the 2017 season at home on Thursday, August 31 against New Mexico State.