The No. 1 team in the country received quite the surprise when quarterback Blake Barnett chose to transfer from the Alabama Crimson Tide and leave the team immediately, just four games into the 2016 season.
Barnett’s decision was first reported by AL.com’s Matt Zenitz and later confirmed in a statement from Alabama coach Nick Saban, who expressed his disappointment with the backup quarterback’s decision to leave the program.
“We received word this afternoon that Blake Barnett has officially withdrawn from school and is no longer with our program,” Saban said in a statement. “The quarterback position is a very unique position where only one player can play. We are very disappointed any time a player leaves the program who feels he can compete for a starting position elsewhere, rather than here at Alabama. We wish Blake the very best of luck in the future.”
While Barnett’s intent to transfer revolved around true freshman Jalen Hurts winning the battle for the starting quarterback position, he did have the backup role locked down, a position that is now once again up for grabs.
With Barnett off the roster, two quarterbacks remain to compete for the backup spot. Those two are redshirt junior Cooper Bateman and David Cornwell. Both have played in limited action this season, but neither has had the opportunity to show much. Bateman has attempted four passes in mop-up duty and Cornwell has yet to throw the ball.
Bateman has also started one game in his career. However, that one start came in a home loss to Ole Miss in 2015, the Tide’s only loss during last year’s national championship season.
Clearly, Bateman has the experience edge over Cornwell, but Cornwell certainly has the talent to be a serviceable option if something happens to Hurts. Cornwell was a four-star quarterback and the No. 4 pro-style quarterback coming out of high school, but has been plagued by injuries for the majority of his time in Tuscaloosa. A foot injury he suffered during the summer essentially removed him from the starting quarterback competition. When fully healthy, Cornwell has arguably the strongest arm on the team and the athleticism to operate in Lane Kiffin’s offense.
If there is one thing Alabama’s starting quarterback battle proved, it’s that Saban isn’t guaranteed to opt for experience over a younger talent, as many previously thought.
Unlike that battle, which eventually worked itself out during the Crimson Tide’s first several games of the season, the competition for the backup spot will take place almost solely in practice, along with mop-up duty in games where Alabama has a comfortable second-half lead.
As thrilled as Alabama fans have to be with the play of Hurts, it doesn’t change the fact that the Crimson Tide are always one hit or one play away from having to rely on another signal-caller to get them back the College Football Playoff and the national championship game. With Barnett gone for good, Saban and Co. must rethink their — no pun intended — backup plan in case of a quarterback emergency.