Blake Barnett arrived in Tuscaloosa with a lot of fanfare. A five star QB from California, he was the #2 pro-style QB, the #5 player in the Golden State, and the #21 recruit overall. Barnett redshirted his first year and bulked up a little. With the departure of Jake Coker, Barnett is right in the midst of this year’s quarterback battle. He started White team with the other second stringers on A-Day.
3rd and 5: Barnett is operating out of the shotgun and has trips left with wide receivers Cam Sims and Derek Kief, and tight end Miller Forristall from left to right. He keys in on Kief and fires a laser, fitting it in between Tony Brown (who was playing Star) and Deionte Thompson coming down from his safety position. He knows how the coverage should break, and he knows when he has to get it in. Great play, especially on 3rd down.
2nd and 9: The White offense has steadily been moving down the field, though Barnett has only attempted (and completed) one pass. True freshman TE Miller Forristall motions right to left. Barnett comes off his first read and goes to his second, which is Forristall, who’s matched up against LB Rashaan Evans. Barnett knows Forristall is breaking on his out route and throws it in front of where Forristall will soon be instead of waiting for him to get open.
Forristall catches the pass for a gain of five. I love this play. Barnett displays ability to go through his progressions and the anticipation to throw to his guy before he’s open because he knows he has it.
3rd and 4: Here we get to Barnett’s inconsistency. The play is designed for Barnett to roll right and hit #81 Derek Kief, who motioned left to right, on an out route just shy of the goalline. Damien Harris immediately goes to block to the right, and you can see Barnett start to pivot that way. Instead he can’t catch the snap and has to run after the ball. He’s sacked, and the drive is over. Adam Griffith would go on to miss his first field goal.
3rd and 4: The White offense has trips left (Cam Sims, Xavian Marks, Miller Forristall) with Derek Kief out right. Barnett gets the snap, takes one step back, and throws to Marks. The pass is too behind Marks for him to make a play, so it falls incomplete. I think it’s possible this was tipped by O.J. Smith, but the announcers don’t say anything to that effect. Smith gets his hand up, and the pass is awful-looking by the time it reaches Marks. I can’t say one way or the other. If it wasn’t, then it was just a bad pass to an open receiver who would’ve picked up the first.
1st and 10: Barnett’s target on this play is Xavian Marks in the slot. He stares Marks down from the get-go, and Tony Brown is smothering him on what looks like a hitch route. Brown breaks up Barnett’s pass, and Shawn Burgess-Becker almost got the pick off the tip.
2nd and 10: The White offense is still in 11 personnel, but this time Forristall is on the line on the right side. Cam Sims is out wide to the right, as well. Barnett takes the snap and uses his eyes to freeze Rashaan Evans and keep his passing lane open. He hits Forristall in a soft spot in the coverage, behind Evans and in front of the safety Hootie Jones.
2nd and 5: Barnett runs a five step drop, and he has to make a quick throw at the end of it because the Crimson defense brings a blitz. He stays in the pocket and hits Forristall for a six yard gain and a first down despite having LB Keaton Anderson in his face. Nice poise.
1st and 10: Cam Sims is wide right, and Miller Forristall is also on the right side at H-back. Forristall runs a little five yard out route, and Barnett pumps. This draws CB Anthony Averett in and gives Sims a bit of a cushion. Barnett’s throw is a little high, but he put it where only his guy could touch it. The 6’5 Sims climbs the ladder and manages to get a foot down for the catch.
2nd and 6: Averett is in press coverage on Sims to the right. Barnett sees Hootie Jones cheat down and knows he has Sims in a one-on-one situation. He overthrows his man, though; and Sims isn’t close to having a shot at making a play.
1st and 10: I’m not sure what happened on this play. Miller Forristall is in the slot on the right and is open on his bubble route. If Barnett throws here, he’s got, at worst, a gain of a couple yards and possibly more if Forristall breaks a tackle. Barnett comes off him, though, and looks to a target downfield in the middle. This could be by design to try and open up the guy across the middle since they run derivations of this play later in this drive. I dunno.
Barnett decides not to force the pass into the middle of the field and attempts to scramble. Anfernee Jennings is in decent position to keep him from busting outside, so Barnett tries to turn back left but slips. Honestly, if he hadn’t slipped, I think he would’ve beaten Johnny Dwight to the edge and had an expanse of open field in front of him; and he would’ve made a huge play with his feet. But he did slip. So he continues to run around and eventually loops around Saban before getting sacked.
2nd and 24: Of course, Barnett follows up that disaster with this beauty. He fires an exceptionally well-placed ball over the head of the leaping LB Keaton Anderson and nails Xavian Marks in the middle of the field. It’s an outstanding job of forgetting the last play and executing perfectly on the following one. Keep watching for the replay and then the next play.
1st and 10: Who needs consistency? Marks was on the left on the last play but moved to the right side here. He runs the same route but reversed. Barnett looks left like he’s going to toss it to Forristall on a bubble screen but looks back to Marks across the middle. He probably thought this would either get Rashaan Evans moving to the left or at least freeze him long enough, but it doesn’t. Barnett hesitates for a second before throwing anyway, and he’s lucky Evans didn’t come up with the interception. It’s sequences like these that left me so frustrated since you can see how talented and effective he is when he’s on.
2nd and 10: Barnett fakes the handoff to Damien Harris and looks to Cam Sims deep. He’s double covered, though; so Barnett checks down to Derek Kief on a hitch route just past the first down marker. Good job of not forcing it and good placement fairly low so Kief could just sit on it.
2nd and 19: Cam Sims wide left with CB Kendall Sheffield in press coverage. Barnett has a five step drop and pumps once to the left side to try to get the safety to bite. It doesn’t work; but Barnett steps up into the pocket right after the pump and lofts one to Sims, who also has safety Shawn Burgess-Becker nearby. The pass is a little too short, and Sheffield prevents Sims from coming back to it. I could see this drawing a defensive pass interference call in a real game, but it’s close.