Alabama TE O.J. Howard knows what he’s looking for in the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback, whoever that ends up being: leadership.
The senior said the most important thing to him is that the starting quarterback commands respect among his teammates, according to AL.com’s Michael Casagrande.
“The biggest thing is like a leader,” Howard said. “Who can lead the offense, take charge? That’s what coach (Nick Saban) wants to see out of a quarterback too I’m pretty sure. Who can be the leader, take charge, take command of the huddle.”
One might think that seniority would make redshirt junior Cooper Bateman the most natural leader in the quarterback meeting room. However, Howard said age has nothing to do with it.
“Oh yeah, a leader, it don’t matter how old you are to be a leader,” Howard said. “A leader just comes, man, born. It don’t matter how old you are, anybody can lead.”
Bateman is the favorite to win the job, particularly after redshirt sophomore David Cornwell’s foot injury. Redshirt freshman Blake Barnett and true freshman Jalen Hurts are still competing for the job, though. Howard said that, so far, all the quarterbacks “have done a great job being leaders in the huddle.”
The other factor Howard named, which probably does play in Bateman’s favor, is taking care of the ball.
“We don’t want turnovers,” he said. “Turnovers hurt us. Any type of turnover hurts us, so we need to take care of the ball, and that’s what we need.”
A veteran like Bateman, while he may not be as exciting of a choice as Barnett or Hurts, has more experience and is less likely to make potentially costly mistakes in a game. Ultimately, however, leadership will be what Howard and Saban want to see most. They’ve seen some of it, and they want to see more.
“You know, sometimes when things are going south, (the quarterbacks) kind of pick everybody up,” Howard said. “‘Let’s go, let’s get it going.’ I think if they keep doing that, we’ll be fine.”