TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — For the third straight offseason, Alabama has an opening at quarterback.
Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell, Blake Barnett and January enrollee Jalen Hurts are all competing for the chance to replace Jake Coker, who helped the Crimson Tide to its fourth national championship in seven years.
As he did over the last two seasons, expect Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban to publicly keep the race open until a player clearly separates himself from the group.
Alabama’s first scrimmage is scheduled for Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium and could go a long way in helping decide this year’s race.
“The guy that wins the quarterback job is going to be the guy that wins the team over with his ability to play on a consistent basis, make the right kind of choices and decisions and show the kind of leadership to affect other people,” Saban said Monday. “I think this is something that everybody in the group needs to work on.”
In the media’s limited viewing windows of the first five spring practices, Bateman has led one quarterback line while Cornwell started at the front of the other. Barnett has worked behind Bateman with Hurts behind Cornwell. During Monday’s practice, Bateman was first up during a red-zone passing drill.
Bateman is the lone returning quarterback with any collegiate experience. Bateman, who started one game last year, completed 71 percent (37-of-52) of his passes for 291 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in mostly mop-up duty. He battled with Jake Coker throughout last offseason and started against Ole Miss. Saban said Bateman has “done a good job” so far this spring.
“He obviously has the most knowledge and experience with the offense,” Saban said. “He’s also the guy that’s probably gotten more reps with the ones than anybody else. He’s done a nice job. I think there’s things that he needs to work on and we need to work on with him so that he can go out there and play with the kind of confidence and be the kind of leader and be the kind of decision-maker that we need at that position to play winning football. And that’s what we’ll continue to focus on.”
Saban spoke highly of Cornwell when asked about the redshirt sophomore’s progress. Cornwell was a bit of a forgotten man last year.
“David’s having a good spring so far,” Saban said. “David has a really good arm. His arm talent is probably as good as anybody we have. His accuracy’s good. He’s smart, a very bright guy. I think he’s got enough experience in the offense having been around here to really have a good understanding of it. I think he’s made a lot of progress.”
Alabama returns to practice on Wednesday.