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.