SEC Country is breaking down each of Alabama’s position groups over the next two weeks before the entire 2016 roster reports to campus.
Tuesday, we take a closer look at the Crimson Tide’s quarterback picture, which unfortunately did not become much clearer during spring practice and the ensuing A-Day scrimmage.
Names you need to know: Cooper Bateman (junior), Blake Barnett (freshman), Jalen Hurts (freshman) and David Cornwell (sophomore).
All winter and spring, we figured Bateman and Barnett would be the primary options under center.
Entering A-Day, that held up, as the pair were named starters during the scrimmage. But Bateman (9-of-24 for 86 yards and one interception) struggled mightily against the first-team defense, while Barnett (9-of-16 for 112 yards) was good — but not great — against the Tide’s second-team “D.”
The starting job will, in all likelihood, still go to one of those two, but a third candidate emerged as well.
Hurts stole the day by combining for 162 yards through the air and on the ground against the second-team defense, and threw the game-winning touchdown pass in the waning moments.
Afterwards, his teammates poured on plenty of praise.
“He reminded me of Blake (Sims) a little bit,” wide receiver Cam Sims said. “Mobile. Got an arm. Got a cannon. And he can use his feet.”
Added linebacker Rashaan Evans: “I think he’s a great quarterback.”
The chances of Hurts stealing the starting job this fall are slim, but might we see him on the field as part of a special package? His legs make him more dynamic than Barnett, and Bateman has struggled to prove his worth as a dual-threat player.
Our money is still on Barnett to earn the No. 1 spot when all is said and done. The former 5-star recruit from southern California is perhaps the most hyped quarterback recruit coach Nick Saban has corralled in his Alabama tenure.
“Blake’s a very talented guy,” former Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones told SEC Country at February’s NFL scouting combine. “The sky’s the limit for him. Only time will tell, and time is his friend. Just being able to learn each day under (offensive coordinator Lane) Kiffin and those guys on the offensive side. I think as long as he puts the work in, he’ll put himself in position to have a chance at the starting spot.”
It should be noted that, in the same interview, Jones predicted Bateman’s experience would help him beat out Barnett for the starting job.
Bateman started last year’s loss vs. Ole Miss and has the most career playing time of any quarterback on the roster, but Barnett and Hurts have become the most exciting players to watch as we head into summer.
“Some of the inexperience shows in some of the negative plays that are sort of like unforced errors in tennis,” Saban said of his youngest quarterbacks after the A-Day scrimmage. “You don’t really need to be taking these plays if you really knew what you’re doing. It has nothing to do with ability. It has everything to do with awareness, experience and knowledge, and then, reacting to what happens. I think that that’s going to be the key to the drill with those guys in terms of their development.”