Quarterback BattleBy Nolan Imsande | 09/02/2015 10:05pm
In the world of college football, spring indicates a couple of things: the start of spring practice, the first time many early enrollees from the year’s signing class take the field and the beginning of position battles. While Alabama has many positions open for playing time, none may be as big as the battle for the starting quarterback position. The Crimson Tide currently has five quarterbacks on its roster and only two, senior Jake Coker and junior Alec Morris, have in-game experience.
“They have all shown at some point in time that they have some ability to do it,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Nobody has really, yet, stood out to the point where you can say, ‘That’s the guy.’ If we had that resolved, it would be easier for us to establish an identity on offense.”
Alabama faced the same problem entering last season, but the battle was between Coker, a Florida State transfer, and senior Blake Sims, who played three different positions for Alabama in his three years, but only attempted 39 passes in his two years as backup quarterback. Sims won the job and lead the team to the College Football Playoff Semifinals while throwing for 3,847 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Coker played in limited action and registered 403 passing yards and four passing touchdowns. The Mobile native is the most experienced of the group, having backed up Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston in 2013 and attempting 36 passes that season.
Besides Coker, the only other quarterback to receive playing time is Morris. The Texas native played in five games since arriving in 2012, but has yet to attempt a pass.
The three other quarterbacks on the roster are sophomore Cooper Bateman, redshirt freshman David Cornwell and true freshman Blake Barnett.
Bateman, the team’s holder for field goals and extra points last season, spent parts of spring practice lining up as a wide receiver.
“I just thought that maybe we could create a role that might be beneficial for our team and beneficial for him,” Saban said. “If we just rated the top 50 athletes on our team, he’d probably be one of them. So now is the time to find out if he could contribute at another position.”
Cornwell, a native of Norman, Oklahoma, redshirted last year after suffering a knee injury that kept him out for part of his senior year at Norman North High School. He was a four-star prospect that picked Alabama over Auburn, Arkansas, Miami and Oklahoma State.
After Saturday’s second spring scrimmage, Saban mentioned the progress Cornwell made.
“He has done, as good a job as anybody this spring, in terms of he is very bright,” Saban said. “He has a great understanding of the offense. He does a great job from the leadership standpoint of helping other players play better when he is in there.”
The most intriguing of all the quarterback candidates might be the newest to the team, the Corona, California, native Barnett. Barnett is a 2015 signee who enrolled in the spring semester and was ranked as the nation’s No. 1 pocket passer by ESPN.com. The gunslinger threw for 3,404 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior at Santiago High School. He ran for 479 yards and seven touchdowns.
“If he is the best player, why would we not play him,” Saban said on National Signing Day about the possibility of Barnett starting this year. “If a guy is the best player, we are going to play him.”