If you follow Alabama football closely, you know that there has been no shortage of opinions shared over the past week on Blake Barnett’s abrupt decision to pack up and leave town. At issue is not the decision to transfer after being passed up by the younger Jalen Hurts.
That was to be expected.
The timing, however, seemed rather unusual, at least until it was revealed that Barnett may be able to take advantage of an apparent loophole that would allow him to gain eligibility at another FBS program by week five of the 2017 season.
Should he prove successful in his efforts, he very well could set a precedent that would open the door for many other such transfers in the future, potentially changing college football in a meaningful way. To many fans, this would be a negative change, something akin to free agency in the professional sports world where fans routinely root against a player one season before becoming his biggest fan once he dons their preferred team’s uniform. Some overly dramatic fans might even call it the end of college football as we know it, and Alabama fans are particularly scarred since Barnett is just the latest of several high profile transfers from the program over the past few months.
The prevailing thought is that seeing elite recruits transfer out after short careers could cause other elite recruits to think twice before committing to a loaded Alabama program.
But what if the opposite is true?
Thus far, roster attrition has had little to no impact on the Nick Saban recruiting machine, and that doesn’t seem to be changing. Alabama currently holds commitments from three of the top five 2017 players on the 247 Composite and by all measures will have an outstanding class when all is said and done. With the program clearly entrenched at the top of the football world, opposing coaches’ best recruiting pitch against Alabama is an already loaded roster that could make seeing the field early a difficult proposition. Indeed, they can cite the transfers of former five-star prospects Barnett and Kendall Sheffield as examples of players who could have started as freshmen at other programs.
There may actually be a way, however, that Saban and company can spin the transfers into a positive.
Think about it. The Alabama coaches can look a kid in the eye and tell him that they truly believe he has what it takes to come in and compete at this level. While there is no promise of playing time, the coaches can cite several true freshman contributors as evidence that early action can be earned. By his sophomore year, the prospect should be on the field and helping to hoist that trophy. And if that doesn’t happen for him?
No harm, no foul.
Worst case scenario, you will spend over a year in the best player development program in the country. You will practice against the best competition in the country. If you aren’t able to win playing time for some unforeseen reason and decide to go elsewhere, you will leave a much better player than you are now and we will support you in your effort to transfer. In short, you will either help Alabama win championships or be better equipped to shine elsewhere.
That should be music to the ears of a five-star prospect with NFL dreams. Telling the player up front that he will have the program’s full support if it doesn’t work out in Tuscaloosa should assuage any fears that he won’t gain the exposure needed to catch the eye of NFL scouts, and every player who does transfer out opens a scholarship for another elite prospect who wishes to come in and compete.
In addition, competing with players of this caliber will allow the player to truly assess whether NFL riches can be a part of his future, and adjust accordingly. He may decide to simply stick around for four years, get on the field as much as he can, and enjoy being a part of a championship program as he earns his degree.
Alabama ends up with an even more loaded roster and becomes something of a farm system for college football.
What’s not to like?