There’s no doubt in Jeff Steinberg’s mind, Alabama quarterback Blake Barnett can be trusted with anything.
Steinberg, Barnett’s former head coach at Santiago High School in California, even let the young quarterback cut his hair once.
“That tells you everything,” said Steinberg, noting that Barnett is actually quite the barber. “... He’s the kind of kid that I hope my daughter marries or my son grows up to be like. He’s a high-character guy.”
Barnett came to the Crimson Tide as a five-star recruit in the 2015 class. He was rated the No. 21 player overall and No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the nation by 247Sports. Highlight films showing Barnett’s ability to escape defenders with his feet and deliver perfectly-placed passes had some Tide fans envisioning him starting as a true freshman last season.
A fast start after enrolling early at Alabama only added to the fire.
However, Barnett went through an up-and-down offseason that saw him suffer form a prolonged illness before being redshirted last year.
“He had some health issues where he lost some weight, gained weight back, he’s bigger, he’s stronger than he’s been,” Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin said earlier this month. “These first two days he’s looked really good. Really strong. Very quick feet. Really growing in the offense. We’re very excited about him.”
Now, listed at 6-5, 211 pounds, Barnett is back in the mix for the starting role this season. While Barnett certainly looks the part size wise, poor decision making has continued to haunt him in his second year at Alabama.
A rough spring this year saw Barnett throw multiple interceptions during scrimmages before going 9-for-16 while taking six sacks in Alabama’s A-Day game. According to spectators in attendance of Alabama’s most recent scrimmage Saturday, Barnett once again struggled with turning over the ball.
That’s not great news when considering head coach Nick Saban’s statements after the scrimmage.
“I think what the quarterback has to understand, and you've heard me say this before, is you can't make the plays that lose the game.” Saban said. “You know, we've played here with quarterbacks on good teams that didn't necessarily do anything to win the game, they just didn't do anything to lose it. And I think it starts with that. Those are the kind of plays that we have to eliminate.”
However, if Steinberg knows one thing about his former quarterback it’s that no one should count Barnett out of the competition just yet.
“I’ve always felt he’s done his best when the pressure’s on,” Steinberg said. “He really thrives under pressure. He has an overall leadership of knowing who his guys are and how to use them and get them involved in the game.”
Steinberg said he still stays in contact with Barnett, picking his brain about the ins and outs of camp at Alabama. Through those brief conversations, Steinberg said he can already see his former quarterback maturing.
“Just listening to him talk about progressions and what guys should be doing on the play or where the guy should be and where his read should be, it’s obvious,” Steinberg said. “He was always a mature guy off the field. Just to watch him operate off the field and to know what most college guys are into doing, and to see that he’s able to stay focused and keep that perspective is really what impresses me the most.”
Adding to his more mature role, Blake Barnett proposed to his girlfriend Maddie Peterson this summer. After winning over the girl, he’s hoping he can win over the team this fall.
“He’s just becoming more comfortable in the offense, which is what you see out of a second-year quarterback,” said sophomore tight end Hale Hentges. “So just everything from that aspect. He’s becoming more comfortable. He’s figuring out what it is to be an Alabama quarterback.”