David Cornwell: Let the battle begin
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Alabama football doesn’t start its summer workout program until Monday, yet redshirt freshman quarterback David Cornwell and junior wide receiver Chris Black have gotten an early start. The two were seen at Thomas-Drew Field Saturday working on timing routes. Cornwell, who stands at 6-foot-5, 221 pounds, is battling senior quarterback Jake Coker for the starting job.
“Me and David Cornwell. We got better today.”- Alabama’s wide receiver Chris Black via Twitter (@CB1_BAMA)
He was Alabama’s second quarterback signed in its 2014 recruiting class, but Cornwell was nothing short of remarkable at Norman North High School in Norman, Oklahoma.
As a dual threat quarterback, he threw for 2,742 yards and rushed for 755 yards with 33 total touchdowns as a junior in 2013. Cornwell missed half of his senior season, due to a knee injury but remained a four-star prospect upon his arrival to Tuscaloosa in January of 2014.
Fully healthy, Cornwell looks to upstage Coker and take the quarterback job this summer. He’s had a productive spring, and Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban constantly talks about Cornwell’s leadership and knowledge of the system. He has a strong arm, and possesses the mental toughness needed to run a Saban/Kiffin system. Cornwell had some bright moments, despite tossing two interceptions in Alabama’s spring game. He completed 12 of 24 passes for 110 yards with a touchdown pass to wide receiver Parker Barrineau.
Arm talent is not an issue for Coker, however, mental toughness and consistency are grey areas. He couldn’t beat out Jameis Winston at Florida State, and lacked consistency in summer camp last season with Alabama. It’s now or never for the 6-foot-5, 230-pound FSU transfer.
Chris Black enrolled at Alabama in 2012, as the most coveted wide receiver coming from Florida. Amari Cooper became the star attraction after Black hurt his shoulder in summer practice, but 2015 gives him a chance to showcase his talents. He saw action in 11 games last season, totaling 15 receptions for 188 yards. 10 of Black’s 15 catches resulted in a first down.
Ball placement is the lone thing Cornwell must improve on. He’s good at making smart decisions, but he has to place the ball in perfect spots on the field. This area will improve as long as he continues to work with Alabama’s receiving corps. With repetition, Cornwell will learn how to anticipate making throws as the receivers are going in and coming out of their routes.
Coach Saban loves to grow with his quarterbacks. Alabama fans witnessed the maturation of AJ McCarron. He started seeing field time as a redshirt freshman in 2010, and would later become the winningest quarterback in Crimson Tide history. Cornwell stands in the very same position. He is a redshirt freshman, yet he possesses a bigger arm and more mobility than McCarron.
A new face will be under center for Alabama this fall. The question is does Jake Coker have enough fight in him to take control? If so, he will call the shots, but it not, prepare to see a redshirt freshman from Oklahoma step up. Saturday was a huge statement in Cornwell’s push. Let the games begin.
Stephen M. Smith is a staff writer and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine, Pick Six Previews and SB Nation. You can “like” him on Facebook, or “follow” him on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.