Saban reveals when the quarterback competition might end and Lane Kiffin provides updates on Blake Barnett, Jalen Hurts

Saban reveals when the quarterback competition might end and Lane Kiffin provides updates on Blake Barnett, Jalen Hurts

Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has the Alabama offense performing at record levels. CW | Pete Pajor

Tyler Waldrep

Regardless of talent, few (if any) players seem entirely ready for the demands that come with playing football at the University of Alabama, but the players aren’t the only ones that go through an adjustment process.

“In the first year I was like a GA in those meetings,” Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin said. “…[I] continue to learn, continue to grow under Coach [Nick Saban]. It’s really a great experience to see all the things that happen in the program with our players, how he handles all the different situations. If you’re just around one year, I don’t think you get to experience all the different things.”

Kiffin might be more confident his own abilities this year, but the position he finds himself in remains the same- find a starting quarterback.

With quarterback David Cornwell seemingly out of the race due to a previous injury Kiffin is left with two guys that competed with Jake Coker a year ago. Cooper Bateman pushed Coker until the middle of the season, but Blake Barnett seemed to fall out of contention before preparation for Wisconsin began.

“When Blake first got here he was performing extremely well and really there were times when he was really in the battle to be the guy,” Kiffin said. “…I think he would tell you he didn’t have his best spring. He really had a great off-season. He had some health issues where he lost some weight, gained weight back, he’s bigger, he’s stronger than he’s been.”

Kiffin said Barnett has performed well through the first few days of fall camp and is continuing to master the offense. The other young quarterback in the competition, true freshman Jalen Hurts, has also impressed his offensive coordinator.

“If you come in as a mid-year and you perform well at all, you’re going to be pretty good, because most of the guys will struggle a lot,” he said. “…That’s transition for all the quarterbacks is very difficult. But he’s handled it really well and we’re really excited about what he’s done and some of the plays he makes that are not in rhythm plays because of his ability to make big plays.”

In the spring, Hurts’ ability to create plays with his feet impressed his coaches and his teammates, but his efforts in the weight room haven’t gone unnoticed. On Sunday Kiffin said Hurts is already one of the top lifters.

On Sunday, Saban said he would like to see the competition end before the season begins. The coaching staff tracks all the players progress in each practice, but the two preseason scrimmages will provide the players with the best chance of seizing the job.

“You get out there in a scrimmage in a real live situation where a coach isn’t standing right behind you and you have to go out there and compete and play on your own and be the leader and then kind of take the bull by the horns,” Saban said. “And then you have to evaluate whether this guy is ready to take that step. Then you hope that he’s ready to take that step, that he can do it in that circumstance, that he can take that step in the game when the live bullets are flying and you’re playing in a big arena, which our first game certainly will be.”

Despite the challenges associated with managing a three or four-man quarterback competition, Kiffin isn’t ready to eliminate anyone yet.

“If you took a poll at times two or three weeks before the openers the last two years it would be mixed on who was going to be the starter,” he said. “And there were times that a guy maybe that was 3 or 4 [on the final depth chart] we thought was 1 that week – and then he’d go in and not play as well and a guy at 3 or 4 would play better. There’s no timetable for it because you’ve got to make sure you find the right guy. I think if we would have had a timetable we may not have found the right guy in the last two years.”