Who’ll be the Alabama starting quarterback? It’s not clear – and it’s not going to be, even after playing USC in Week 1.
Life was so much easier when it was AJ McCarron for three straight years.
McCarron looks like he’ll grow into a nice NFL starter at some point, but for the most part, Nick Saban has been able to create this unstoppable monster without a whole lot of talent at quarterback.
Hand the ball off, make a key throw here and there, don’t turn the ball over, let the pro-caliber defense take care of the rest. That’s the life of an Alabama quarterback, and it’s worked out nicely over the last decade.
But, of course, that’s selling the position short.
Every year there’s at least one game when the Crimson Tide quarterback has to come up with a big performance, or at least be able to shine in a key moment, that turned out to be the difference between a solid 10-2 season and a possible run to the national title.
Whether it was Blake Sims overcoming a rough day to pull out the 2014 LSU game in overtime, or Jake Coker rising up and pulling a tired team through to the bye week in last year’s win over Tennessee, the Crimson Tide quarterback must be a difference-maker when it’s his time.
So who has the chops to take the gig now that Coker is done?
Who’s able to handle the don’t-screw-it-up pressure of the position?
Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin have four options to choose from, and they’re all good – even if none of them were good enough this offseason.
Freshman Jalen Hurts is the most dynamic of the possibilities, with more mobility than most of Saban’s quarterbacks and the biggest upside of the current bunch. He’s a 6-2, 210-pound dual-threat quarterback who might be just good enough to get his own packages here and there to throw a curveball into the mix.
6-5, 200-pound Blake Barnett is another interesting prospect with far more mobility and athleticism than almost all of the past starters, and with the size and arm to be the type of downfield passer the offense needs. Behind a line that might need a little while to gel, he’s got the quickness to extend plays.
David Cornwell is a Norman, Oklahoma native who got away from the Sooners. There was a time last offseason when it looked like he had starting potential, but it hasn’t quite happened yet for him in practices. A tremendous recruit, he was supposed to be the talent who not only won big for the Crimson Tide, but would turn into a strong pro prospect along the way.
Junior Cooper Bateman was the backup last season and seemed to have a line on the starting gig at one point last offseason, but it was always going to be Coker. The 6-3, 224-pounder got the call for a stretch against Ole Miss and completed 11-of-14 passes for 87 yards, but that wasn’t enough. He spent the rest of the season on mop-up duty.
Who’ll Be Alabama’s Stating Quarterback?
Take Hurts out of the equation – not a chance a true freshman starts on Day One. Cornwell will get his shot in fall camp, but he’s the likely odd man out.
Barnett offers the best blend of talents and options, but will the coaching staff trust a guy with no experience? Not with the Week One showdown coming against a dangerous USC team.
Bateman is the safe, slightly-experienced choice going against the Trojans in the must-win opener. It’s a wide-open battle going into August, and if Bateman is the No. 1, make Barnett No. 1A.