Quarterback Blake Barnett, one of the highest-rated college recruits in 2015, has shocked the Crimson Tide by leaving college this week.
Barnett started the first game of the season, but was benched after 2 series in favor of Jalen Hurts, and his only other playing time was 3 series in the game on September 24th. Otherwise he has been holding the clipboard as the #2 quarterback.
Predictably, perjoratives like “quitter” have been ladled out like confetti since the news of Barnett’s leaving college broke on Thursday.
Blake Barnett had three options open to him, given that he had apparently been demoted to #2 quarterback at Alabama.
1. Remain on the program, and try to win the job back
2. Remain this season and try (1) but leave after the season
3. Leave Alabama now and transfer to a junior college
The underlying reason for Barnett leaving Alabama are that there is a rule in the NCAA governing playing eligbility that worked against him remaining with Alabama and the football program. The rule states that transferring players lose one season of eligibility after the date that they transfer.
So, if Blake Barnett transfers immediately to another college, and if he meets specified academic and attendance records, he can play football for another college after the fourth game of next season. If he left Alabama after the end of this season, he would not be able to play for any college team until 2018.
Barnett was not a little-noticed scrub when he was recruited. He was universally regarded as one of the top quarterback prospects coming out of high school. However, he is more a prototypical pocket passer, where Jalen Hurts is more of an athletic read-option quarterback. Alabama’s offensive line is not currently very good – Nick Saban admitted as much at halftime in today’s game. At the moment Alabama is having to use the running flexibility of Hurts to win on offense. The reason why Barnett is not playing may have as much to do with Alabama’s o-line challenges as it does with Barnett’s skills and abilities.
Given the o-line issues, and the decision to cope with them by moving to a playbook based on more running plays and read-option calls, Barnett’s decision makes a lot of sense. Let’s go back and look at his options again:
1. Stay and win back the job
This is less likely than it might appear. If you can’t protect a pocket quarterback, you have to find other ways to put up points. If Barnett wins back the starting job, that might be bad for him. He gets to go out there and run for his life if his o-line protection breaks down. If he suffers a season-ending injury, this will not be good for his college career and could ruin his attempt to make it into the NFL (think Marcus Lattimore and Jaylon Smith).
2. Stay but transfer at the end of the season
If he moves to another college he forfeits a year of playing time. He will not be able to play until 2018.
3. Go to junior college now, transfer to a football college in 2017
If he does this, he can play after four games of the 2017 season.
Lost amidst all of the whining about Barnett being a quitter is one important thing that we have to remember. He is not being paid for playing football. He gets to work hard and then go out on a Saturday and put his body in harm’s way for the official sum of $0. Meanwhile, his head coach Nick Saban pulled down $7m last year.
When you get the hook after one quarter of the firs game of the season, you are on the bench, and you are not being paid, but you want to play, why stay at Alabama? I’ll pass on the whining about him quitting on the team. If he was benched after 2 series, that kind of looks like the coaches quit on him.