The first day of competition in NIKE’s The Opening kicked off on Tuesday, and all 10 Alabama commits were able to show their stuff. If you didn’t hear about or see Calvin Ridley’s amazing catch, go here. Ridley also told 247Sports he’d officially visit Florida State and wants to take all five of his official visits.
TUSCALOOSA, Alabama – From Jersey City, N.J., to Corona, Calif., Alabama’s 2015 recruiting class has once again established itself as a coast-to-coast endeavor.
That’s nothing new for the Crimson Tide, of course. The 26-man class of 2014 pulled from 15 different states, up two from the 13 it hit in 2013.
As it stands Thursday — one day after quarterback Blake Barnett (Corona, Calif.) committed to the Crimson Tide – Alabama holds commitments from 19 players in 10 different states. Of note, tight end Hale Hentges is the first Missourian of the Nick Saban era. The rest come from relatively familiar territories.
The map below shows just how spread out the group is.
The geographic midpoint — the center of gravity (center of mass or average location) for all of the points — of this class so far? Northport, of all places, according to GeoMidpoint.com.
The geographic midpoint of 2014′s class was Como, Miss. — a small town just a shade northeast of Oxford. Several recruits from west of the Mississippi, including signees from Arkansas, Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota and Colorado helped contribute to that particular midpoint.
One of the best signing classes in recent memory looked nothing like this.
Alabama’s 2008 class included seven players who went on to become first- or second-round NFL Draft picks and a number of other top contributors, including three-time All-American Barrett Jones.
As an out-of-state recruit, Jones, who went to school in Cordova, Tenn., was in the minority, as Saban and Co. largely culled from within the borders. Of Alabama’s 32 signees in 2008, 18 came from in-state schools.
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Any time a quarterback commits, it’s a big day.
Alabama got one today when Corona, Calif., standout Blake Barnett verbally committed to Alabama.
He’ll graduate in December and enroll in time for 2015 spring practice.
Get caught up on reading our coverage of Barnett’s commitment, then join in for an hour-long chat. We can talk about other positions too, as Alabama is up to 19 commitments for the 2015 class, or maybe something like soccer.
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – When Blake Barnett took a trip to the University of Alabama last week, he never could have imagined that he’d commit to the school less than a week later.
But the visit had so much of an impact on the 4-star quarterback from Corona, Calif., that he committed to play for the Crimson Tide on Wednesday. Barnett is listed as a dual-threat quarterback and plays in a hurry-up, no-huddle offense for Santiago High School, but his coach feels he’ll make a smooth transition.
“It was a great time,” Barnett said of his visit. “I got to spend a lot of time with Coach (Nick) Saban and Coach (Lane) Kiffin as well. What they do down there and with their program and how they prepare their players for football after college and for life after college, it spoke greatly.”
Barnett was officially offered by Alabama in February, not long after he committed to Notre Dame. He said the Alabama coaches were respectful of his decision to commit to Notre Dame, but the two sides got in contact again after he decommitted from Notre Dame on June 4.
“The rest is history,” Barnett said.
Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, the former head coach at USC, recruited Barnett to Alabama.
“He was a big influence,” Barnett said. “He wasn’t the deciding factor being the fact that Saban’s really the man in charge, but it made a huge difference knowing that Coach Kiffin is there, knowing he has an excellent offense and he’s had results with quarterbacks in the past from USC that have gone on to the next level, so that’s a great attribute.”
Barnett works in the offseason with quarterback coach Dennis Gile at The [Q] Quarterback Academy. Gile has worked with Barnett on transitioning to a pro style offense after high school.
“I do a lot of under center stuff and work on sitting in the pocket,” Barnett said. “The difference with the spread and pro style is being the fact it’s under center most of the time. We do a lot of zone read at my school but that’s my coach’s preference and that’s a west coast kind of thing. I don’t think it’ll be hard change.”
Barnett canceled a scheduled trip to Oregon this week and said he is 100 percent committed to Alabama. He will graduate from high school in December and come to Tuscaloosa next January.
For now, it’s all about recruiting players to Alabama and focusing on his senior season.
“I’m still unprepared for that being that this all escalated quickly, but I think Coach Kiffin’s going to give me some names pretty soon,” Barnett said.
“It’s awesome. It’s a relief, too, being the fact that I don’t have to stress about the recruiting process with other commits and worrying about what school is the right fit. It’s nice to find the place for it.”
Barnett will participate in the Elite 11 Camp, which runs in conjunction with The Opening, in early July.
When Alabama landed a verbal commitment from Corona, Calif., quarterback Blake Barnett on Wednesday, the Crimson Tide didn’t just land its highest-rated quarterback commitment of the Nick Saban era. In Barnett, Alabama will also get a prospect that stands out from any other quarterback prospect Saban has brought to Tuscaloosa thanks to the athleticism and speed that has led some recruiting services to rank him among the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country.
Alabama’s reputation as a program built around pro-style quarterbacks has led many to scratch their heads each time Saban has spent valuable time and effort recruiting some of the country’s top dual-threat signal-callers. Why bring in a quarterback built for a spread-style offense if the Crimson Tide intends on continuing its pro-style attack under Lane Kiffin?
As Saban has pointed out numerous times in recent years, having a quarterback who can make plays with his feet is useful in any style of offense and it’s clear that bringing in a more athletic player under center is an idea that has been on Saban’s mind for several years. In fact, Saban talked about the appeal of dual-threat quarterbacks during the spring.
“I think if you have a guy like that, it does create a lot of problems for the defense,” Saban said in March during an interview with ESPN. “I think that as we go forward in the future, that we’d like to have that kind of quarterback as well. But we’re still a pro-style type of offense.
“We really don’t want to go into the spread and have a running quarterback because the downside of that is when you lose that guy, because of the exposure he has, do you have enough guys that can go in there and play at the same level he can play?”
As a junior starter for Santiago High School, Barnett rushed for nearly 700 yards and 13 touchdowns. He did so operating out of a spread offense with plenty of designed runs for the quarterback, something Barnett won’t likely do much of at Alabama, but it’s clear from his highlight reel that designed runs didn’t account for all of that success.
In the clips above, Barnett also shows himself to be a dangerous scrambler when plays break down, with the 6-foot-4, 195-pound passer showing elusiveness and agility that will remind Tide fans of recent nemesis Johnny Manziel.
And like Johnny Football, Barnett’s ability to make plays with his feet don’t come at the expense of passing ability. Barnett passed for 2,322 yards and 22 touchdowns last season and shows an ability to put plenty of zip on the ball even when he’s on the move.
So what does this all mean for the future of the Crimson Tide offense? For one, it makes the quarterback position in Tuscaloosa even more competitive than it already is. By the time Barnett arrives, he’ll be battling several highly-touted quarterbacks with multiple years of experience. Barnett’s athleticism will set him apart from the rest of the field and give him an advantage when it comes to seeing early playing time.
Saban has been stockpiling offensive weapons in Tuscaloosa for years, but in Barnett he will find a new kind of offensive weapon that could change the profile of the Crimson Tide offense.
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Blake Barnett runs a spread, no-huddle offense at Santiago High School in Corona, Calif., but he’s well-prepared for Alabama’s pro-style attack.
Barnett committed to Alabama on Wednesday over several national programs, including his No. 2 choice of Oregon. The sky is the limit for the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Barnett, his high school head coach said.
“When you look at some of the athletes that have transitioned from one to the other, from the passing game I think he’s ahead of a lot of other guys,” Santiago High School head coach Jeff Steinberg told AL.com shortly after Barnett committed to Alabama. “You’ve got to have an understanding of what he’s seeing in front of him in terms of fronts and coverages. I think he’s a little ahead in terms of understanding defenses, which would help any kid no matter what kind of offense they came from.”
Steinberg pointed at former Hoover quarterback John Parker Wilson, who made the transition from a similar type of offense and became a three-year starter for Alabama.
“I think he made a pretty good transition,” Steinberg said of Wilson. “The other thing is, when you’re a good athlete, it’s never going to hurt you. Here’s a kid that runs the ball well and he’s not going to be asked make the same runs, but he’s going to be asked to extend plays. The offense he plays on now will help him prepare for that.”
Barnett has worked with a quarterback coach in the offseason on fitting in a pro-style offense.
“Here’s a kid, off the field, he’s working on five, seven-step drops,” Steinberg said. “He’s working on playaction mechanics under center. It’s not like he’s never been exposed to that. When he’s working with his quarterback coach on the side, he’s doing that stuff. He’s been prepped, so that’s why the ceiling is so high for him.”
Barnett wasn’t a starter as a sophomore, but rose near the top of national quarterback rankings because of his work ethic, Steinberg said. Barnett is rated as the No. 65 prospect nationally on the 247Sports composite and the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback.
“When you look at the top athletes in the SEC, everybody was a great high school athlete and the guys that take their game a step further are the guys that are wired a little different,” Steinberg said. “They love to work. They love to get into the weight room. They love to watch film. They love to improve on their game and Blake is one of those guys.”
Barnett visited Alabama last week with his family. The visit set Alabama apart from the rest. Steinberg mentioned Nick Saban’s plan and process, as well as what Barnett would have for him in terms of development off the field, including nutrionists and psychologists.
“Facilities are great and all big schools have them,” Steinberg said. “That’s something that will initially allow a kid to be interested, but you need more than that. The big thing was that Coach Saban has a plan and a process in how he works with a student-athlete and that was huge.
“There didn’t need to be any promises of, ‘You get a chance to compete and be the guy.’ I think what Blake was looking for was, ‘What’s the plan for me to develop and leave here a man?’ That was huge.”
Barnett, who was recruited by Lane Kiffin, will graduate in December and enroll at Alabama in January of 2015.
“He’ll be there for spring ball and all that, which will be awesome,” Steinberg said.
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – After spending quality time in Tuscaloosa, 4-star quarterback Blake Barnett could be close to a commitment to one of his top two schools.
Barnett, who stars at Santiago High School in Corona, Calif., visited Alabama late last week and is scheduled to make a trip to Oregon with his family later this week, per Santiago head coach Jeff Steinberg.
Steinberg said that Barnett and his family are electing not to do interviews until after he commits to a school, which could happen any time after his visit to Oregon.
“He had a really good visit and a great visit with the staff,” Steinberg said. “Coach (Nick) Saban has a great plan and his process in terms of how he develops the overall athlete and young man for later on in life is outstanding.
“His plan is going out to Oregon with his parents for a visit towards the weekend and then they’ll make a decision as a family.”
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Barnett is rated as the No. 65 player nationally on the 247Sports composite rankings. He decommitted from Notre Dame earlier this month. Steinberg said he believes the quarterback is down to Alabama and Oregon.
Alabama’s top two targets at the position appear to be Barnett and Anaheim, Calif., 4-star quarterback Travis Waller, who was also in for a visit last week.
Barnett, a Corona, Calif., native, was a longtime Notre Dame commitment, but recently backed off. Most recruiting services feel that Barnett is an Oregon lean.
Barnett is visiting Alabama, Georgia and LSU in the next week. He has been offered by Alabama.
“Alabama is definitely recruiting me hard and they let me know I’m their number one guy,” Barnett told 247Sports. “They were telling me I could come in and compete and they think I could excel in their offense.”