Nick Saban doesn’t unveil much when it comes to a position battles, leaving Crimson Tide fans grasping for any insight they can on the ongoing Alabama quarterback competition.
Will it be junior Cooper Bateman? Redshirt sophomore David Cornwell? Redshirt freshman Blake Barnett? Could it possibly be true freshman Jalen Hurts?
The answer will likely be unveiled as the Crimson Tide offense takes the field for the first time against Southern Cal on Sept. 3 in Arlington, Texas, but the question will hang over the program until a No. 1 quarterback is announced.
Saban said in April that Bateman would be the Tide starter ‘if we had to play today,’ and the quarterback worked out at the Manning Passing Academy last week in Louisiana. Among those in attendance was former Cleveland Browns general manager and longtime NFL scout Phil Savage.
He walked away impressed with the Crimson Tide quarterback, but questioned one thing about his game.
“With Cooper, I think it’s pretty obvious that he’s an athletic player,” Savage told Jox Radio’s The Roundtable on Monday. “He of course, dabbled at wide receiver for a spell at Alabama. The short to intermediate stuff he seems to be pretty good at. Anything beyond 25 yards though, the ball seems to come apart on him for whatever reason. I don’t know technically why that would happen, I’ve never worked closely enough with him to know.
“But I think the fact that he was there … guys, this is a quarterback culture that the Mannings have tried to develop and pass along to the next generation,” Savage continued. “And that exposure of being there Thursday, Friday, Saturday night, getting a chance to talk to Peyton and Eli, under the leadership of Archie, just the approach to the position, I cannot help but think that it would help him.”
Bateman started his first game against Ole Miss last season, but was replaced by eventual starter Jacob Coker after going 11-for-14 with 87 yards and an interception. He is the most experienced signal caller on the Alabama roster, but will can he step up and earn the job?
“I think the biggest question on Cooper Bateman, above everything else, is does the Alabama coaching staff have a belief that he can hit passes beyond 20 yards? Because last year Jake Coker separated himself because he could hit the long ball,” Savage said. “That was the threat that Alabama needed to counter the run game by Derrick Henry. This year, it’s going to be a lot about Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart.
“I think he can get the ball to them very quickly on those lateral screens, lateral throws. But can he get the football down the field to those guys on a consistent basis? Because to me, that’s the No. 1 question on Cooper.”