ESPN Game Day’s Lee Corso has turned his iconic catchphrase “Not so fast, my friend” into a hallowed part of college football weekends. He uses it to disagree with a prediction made by other guests on the show. In terms of Alabama football, it is time for a dose of “not so fast” when it comes to the quarterback competition for the 2015 season.
The narrative surrounding the Crimson Tide quarterbacks has been repeated ad nauseam for eight months. While the job is Jake Coker’s to lose, he will receive his stiffest challenge from David Cornwell. Cooper Bateman, Alec Morris and Blake Barnett being a part of the QB race were explained away through a variety of mental gymnastics that would make Sarah Patterson proud.
Not so fast, my friend.
Blake Barnett, an early enrollee from the 2015 recruiting class, was thought to be too small, and too inexperienced, to take the pounding of a full SEC slate of games. The “too small” idea was built upon the fact he reported to the Capstone standing 6’5″ and weighing a paltry 190 pounds. At the time, it made perfect sense.
Fast forward to fall camp. Since enrolling in January, Barnett has gained eighteen pounds to tip the scales at 208, and is working towards a playing weight of 212-215 pounds per Matt Zenitz of al.com.
While 6’5″, 212-215 isn’t huge, it also isn’t a string bean ready to be gleefully shattered by the first defender that comes on a blitz. The other pillar, too inexperienced, is thornier. To explain it away requires accepting that Barnett is a microcosm of what football has become at many levels – a year-round game.
There have been spring and summer football workouts for years, but the rise of specialized camps and coaches is a new phenomenon. The most well-known of these coaches is George Whitfield, a renowned quarterbacks coach who counts high-end quarterbacks from every level of football among his clientele. What do these coaches do? They not only try to develop physical tools such as throwing motion, feet placement and other minutiae that make up every football position, but also work on the mental side of the game through film sessions and study.
Everything that coaches like Whitfield do comes together to form a crash course in advanced quarterbacking. In short, quarterbacks are coming out more prepared for the next level thanks to this type of specialized aid.
Barnett has been receiving this kind of coaching for years. He confirmed as much in an interview on BAMSRadio, a weekly internet radio show & podcast.
Of course, even gaining weight and receiving top-tier training from both Lane Kiffin and other coaches doesn’t mean Barnett has a legitimate shot at being a true freshman starter for the Crimson Tide. Or does it?
At Fan Day 2015, Lane Kiffin mentioned how the QB competition is “wide open” and how “the QBs will decide who wins the job, not me.”
It is no great secret that the scrimmages scheduled for August 15th and 22nd are key in deciding who will walk onto the field against Wisconsin on September 5th. It is tough to count Blake Barnett out since he has ameliorated several of the issues surrounding his early tenure in Tuscaloosa, and the QB job is wide open. Several writers also noted that Barnett looked good during Fan Day.
There are only two horses in the quarterback race? Not so fast, my friend.