As it prepares for Saturday’s game against visiting Kentucky, Alabama has lost its backup quarterback.
Blake Barnett, a redshirt freshman and five-star recruit, is transferring. The California native, who started the team’s opening game of the season but then lost his job to a true freshman, is transferring, according to various reports.
Alabama coach Nick Saban said Wednesday he wasn’t sure if Barnett was still on the team. Saban said the quarterback had approached him before practice to discuss “concerns about his future.” News broke Wednesday night that Barnett had decided to leave the program.
Barnett was rated as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback and the No. 21 prospect overall for 2015 by 247Sports. Rivals also rated Barnett as the No. 2 pro passer in the class, but ranked him 41st overall. He was instrumental in convincing Madison Southern star running back Damien Harris to turn down home-state Kentucky and sign with Alabama.
The emergence of Jalen Hurts, however, moved Barnett down a spot on the depth chart. Hurts, a true freshman from Texas, has started Alabama’s last three games. He’s completed 64 of 102 passes for 727 yards and five touchdowns with one interception. He’s also rushed for 251 yards on 40 carries, including 146 yards on 18 carries in Alabama’s 48-43 win over Ole Miss.
The analytics site Pro Football Focus ranked Hurts the fourth-best true freshman in college football to this point. “He brings a dynamic run/pass threat that previous Crimson Tide quarterbacks have lacked,” writes Steve Palazzolo, “and it’s opened up a new chaper in offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin’s playbook.”
Barnett was the starter in Alabama’s 52-6 win over USC in Arlington, Texas on Sept. 3, but was replaced by Hurts after the second series. Playing in three of the first four games, Barnett completed 11 of 19 passes for 219 yards. He threw for two touchdowns and was not intercepted.
“Even when Hurts struggled early and Alabama fell behind 24-3 against the Rebels, Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin stayed with him and declined to insert Barnett in search of a spark,” writes Kevin Scarbinsky of AL.com. “Their faith in Hurts paid off in a 48-43 win, matching the largest comeback in school history.”
Cooper Bateman is now Alabama’s backup quarterback. A junior from Murray, Utah, Bateman has completed three of four pases for three yards this year. Last season, Bateman hit on 37 of 52 passes for 291 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Bateman actually started last season as Alabama’s quarterback before losing out to Jacob Coker. Bateman was competing with Barnett at the start of this season’s fall camp, until Hurts took over.
KENTUCKY AT ALABAMA
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
TV: ESPN with Dave Pasch, Greg McElroy and Tom Luginbill
Radio: UK Network with Tom Leach, Jeff Piecoro and Dick Gabriel