SEC Country is breaking down each Alabama position group from Feb. 29 to March 7 as the Crimson Tide prepare for spring football.
Monday’s breakdown features Alabama’s 2016 quarterbacks.
Notable departures: Jake Coker
You should already know: Cooper Bateman
Get to know: Blake Barnett, David Cornwell, Jalen Hurts
Analysis: Bateman and Barnett figure to be the two players battling for the starting spot, which is up for grabs for the third straight season.
Coker won the job last year by outlasting Bateman in an ugly September display. The latter signal-caller had a golden opportunity when Nick Saban gave him the starting nod against Ole Miss, but an ineffective performance relegated Bateman to the bench as Coker led Alabama to its 16th national title.
Meanwhile, Barnett — a 5-star prospect from the Los Angeles area — impressed several starters while running the Tide’s scout team.
“Blake’s a very talented guy,” recently departed defensive back Cyrus Jones said last week at the 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.”
Both Bateman and Barnett have good mobility, with Bateman having the speed to blow by most linebackers.
Cornwell was in the mix with Coker and Bateman last fall, but he was not a serious option once the season began. Wearing Joe Namath, Brodie Croyle and Greg McElroy’s old No. 12, he’ll likely have plenty of opportunities to prove he belongs with Bateman and Barnett in the spring.
Hurts, a 4-star early enrollee from Channelview, Texas, could be a dark horse candidate if the players in front of him struggle.
Key question: Has Bateman improved? He’ll need to surprise coaches at spring practice to stem Barnett’s perceived momentum.
Bottom line: This one probably won’t be decided until August or September, so Bateman and Barnett have several months to duke it out. Still, spring football is an opportunity to set the tone.
Tuesday preview: Running backs