Many of you may not be familiar with the newest Alabama football commitment. You may have heard of the top 3 quarterback recruits in Josh Rosen (Rivals only 5-star QB who is currently committed to UCLA), Ricky Town (4-star Bama de-commit heading to So Cal), and Kyler Murray* (4-star TAMU). However, right behind them is 4-star Bama commit Blake Barnett. Both Rivals and 247sports rank him as the #3 dual-threat QB and #5 signal-caller overall.
He was selected MVP of the Elite 11 Los Angeles Regional beating out former Bama commit Town, Arizona State commit and #3 pro-style QB Brady White, and Michigan State commit Brian Lewerke among others to become the first player to be invited to the 2014 Elite 11 finals.
You might find it unusual that the Crimson Tide would go after a "dual-threat" over a pocket/pro-style quarterback. Don't be scared off by this unfair label. Barnett is more than a running QB who occasionally throws a ball. This is a QB who looks to throw but can run if needed. In 2013, he threw for 2,322 yards and 22 passing TDs and rushed for another 695 and 13 scores despite missing some time with an injury. Not really the numbers of a running QB, is it? Barnett can sling the rock but when he is in trouble, he can move around and make plays with his feet. Does that remind you of anyone who played some 600 miles to the west?
Barnett thrives under pressure and can make things happen when the pocket collapses. Some observers like to compare him to a young Marcus Mariota. But the more I watch him, the more he reminds me of a young Robert Griffin III. Nick Saban is not the kind of person to stubbornly live in the past. He sees where the game is going and adjusts to it. A field general like Barnett might just be the perfect evolved QB for Bama in the second half of this decade.
RG3 as a freshman:
I am guessing by this point, most of us have put our differences with Kiffin behind us and trust in Saint Nick. If true, you have to admit that it is important that the Alabama OC gets a quarterback of his liking.
"I feel it's the best school to develop me as not just a quarterback but as a student and a person too. I really fell in love with the place when I was there and quickly developed great relationships with not just the coaches but the players as well.
"Alabama is an incredible school with great tradition and Coach Saban is obviously one of the best coaches in the country. I'm very comfortable with Coach Kiffin, the OC as well and he had a great track record for developing quarterbacks at USC. I like the offense and the scheme they have and think I'll fit in very well there."
Ricky Town was not on the Lane train. So, I have no problem with his flipping. [Side note: from what I have heard, Town expected to come in and start as a true frosh. Fat chance.]
Now this is where the comparisons to JFF end. While Manziel is a few ticks under 6-feet tall, Barnett stands at 6-4 and 200 lbs. I don't want to get too Gumpy on you all, but again I venture back to a certain former Baylor quarterback with a comparable game who had similar size coming out of high school. With his long legs, Barnett not only outruns the big guys and linebackers but he also leaves defensive backs in the dust with his deceptive speed.
*For the record, top-ranked dual QB Kyler Murray is only 5-11/170. He had astronomical high school numbers in 2013 (207-325 for 3,669 yds, 46 PTD, 9 INT, 151 rushes for 1,274 yds, 19 RTD) but time will tell if the Aggies can duplicate the JFF magic/voodoo.
Barnett is already 18 years old and will be a December graduate. These days, it is SO important to get a quarterback onto campus ASAP. Many observers comment that Barnett is a natural leader on and off the field.
"I think when I went back there and speaking to the coaches ahead of time, that's when I really started to figure out that that was the place I really wanted to be," Barnett told ESPN.com.
"I think academically, athletically and as a person as well, I think it will develop me the best for my life in general. I fell in love with the campus itself and with the facilities obviously, but I think what Alabama can develop me to be is what really convinced me."
TROLL, TROLL, TROLL YOUR BOAT...
Barnett had committed to Notre Dame in November but after a visit to Oregon, he announced on Twitter that he was opening up his recruitment and de-committed from the Irish. Many recruiting "experts" figured him to be a lock to the Ducks. However, Barnett and his parents took a three-day unofficial visit to Alabama this past week and fell in love with the Capstone (an experience not unlike my own some years ago) and committed this past Wednesday morning saying he was making a decision that was in his best interests on and off the field.
"I'm very happy the process is over," Barnett said. "It was a stressful time for me and my family, especially the last week when we were sitting down to try and figure all this out. I had two great options and really liked Oregon a lot.
"In the end, it just came down to where I thought I could have the most long term success on and off the field and that was at Alabama. I'm planning to graduate early so I can get there in time for spring ball and start learning as much as I can. Now that this is over, I can turn my attention back to my high school team and hopefully leading them as far as we can go."
Blake had planned to see Alabama, LSU and Georgia but once he cancelled the Georgia and LSU trips, it was clear that Alabama had made an impression.
With his pledge to Bama, the Ducks have scrambled to find a replacement putting the full-court press on for another dual QB who Bama had an offer out to in 4-star Travis Waller from Anaheim, CA and rising star Sam Darnold of San Clemente, CA.
Are you not Gump'd?