For the last two years, Alabama's offensive-coordinator-by-day, mad-genius-by-night, Lane Kiffin, has taken two quarterbacks with little experience, talent, or potential and molded them into mostly-dependable players with occasional flashes of brilliance to lead the Alabama offense to some pretty spectacular seasons.
For the third year in a row, he will be breaking in yet another new starting quarterback. With the pure talent of the group of receivers this year, whichever signal caller wins the job this year will inherit one of the most cushy situations in the entire nation, and will be set up to succeed. The question is: will Lane Kiffin and the Tide be able to catch lighting in a bottle for the third year in a row, and pull out yet another solid player from the unknown ranks of an inexperienced depth chart?
Last year's starter has graduated and is attempting to slip his way in to the end of the 2016in May. Despite some extremely shaky play early on and consistently one-tick-slow decision making, Coker became a legitimate weapon for the Tide by the end of the season, especially once he learned how to hit Calvin Ridley on deep balls. However his departure has left a crucial vacancy in the Tide offense
The long-time back up with an alter ego as a punter decided to transfer near his home to North Texas to play out his final year of eligibility. Morris, while never considered a talented player, was in the thick of the competition last year, and has been a valuable back up with his knowledge of the offense.
A long-time favorite player of mine, the redshirt junior from Utah was the back-up to Jake Coker last year, and even made one start before Coker took the job by the reigns. Bateman is the most athletic quarterback on the roster, clocking in with a 40-time in the 4.5 range--and is faster than the freakishly-athletic tight end, O.J. Howard, by Howard's own admission. He even spent some time last offseason as a wide receiver, further solidifying just how athletic Bateman is.
He's the most experienced on the roster by a long shot, is the front-runner for the job as of right now. Though he may not have the strongest arm, he has a quick release and really great touch and accuracy, throwing a very catchable ball. One factor to keep an eye on is that he and receiver Robert Foster have displayed great chemistry together over many years throughout spring practices. He's also been the Tide's holder on field goals for the last two years, for whatever that's worth.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the 6'5" sophomore, David Cornwell, is easily the least mobile passer on the roster, but also possesses a cannon for an arm. This will be his third year in the system, and Saban has praised Cornwell for his leadership many times over the last year. He is definitely the most prototypical quarterback we have, and is Bateman's top competitor right now. He has, however, always struggled with accuracy and ball placement. Though he's been on campus for two years, he is still mostly an unknown to the rest of us.
Hailing from South California, Barnett is the most ballyhooed and highly rated quarterback recruited under Saban, he redshirted last year as a true freshman, and will be looking to take the starting job with four whole years of eligibility left. He as an exceptionally talented arm in both the power and accuracy departments, but reportedly has struggled to maintain any sort of consistency in practice thus far. He's one of those quarterbacks that, while not really that fast, is almost impossible to lay a hand on in the pocket... he's just elusive. Couple that with his somewhat awkward throwing motion, and he'll remind many of you of a skinny Tim Tebow.
Jalen Hurts is a four star dual-threat with a lot of potential. He's got an insanely quick release, and excels in a fast-paced, short-passing, west coast offense. On top of that, he's the most natural runner on the roster already, and is very accomplished at running the read option, often looking like a running back with the ball in his hands. By all accounts, he's viewed as a bright kid with outstanding field vision and pocket awareness, but some issues with his accuracy and arm strength on deep balls.
So who starts?
Though you can't count him out, Jalen Hurts is probably last in line, and is facing a redshirt. That leaves the next three. Barnett and Cornwell probably have more arm talent than Bateman, but can they get a catchable ball to the right receiver? Which of the three grasps the offense the best, and who's the best leader?
On a personal level, I don't think Cornwell is the answer. He's too inaccurate without having any mobility to make up for it. So I think it comes down to Bateman or Barnett by the time August rolls around. It's a tough call from there, but if I were a betting man, I would put my money on Cooper Bateman being your starter in 2016.