Someone remains unsettled as to how his time in Tuscaloosa came to an end.
Blake Barnett began the 2016 season as Alabama’s starting quarterback before giving way to Jalen Hurts midway through the opener, with the deposed starter ultimately deciding to leave the Crimson Tide less than a month later. Barnett’s decision to leave didn’t sit well with Nick Saban, who publicly chided his former player for, essentially, quitting.
“It’s one of those things where I think the culture has changed a little bit,” Saban said during his late September radio show. “I think there’s a certain pride people have in competition. There’s certain things that I was taught growing up about not quitting and seeing things through. I think if I would have come home and told my dad that I was going to quit the team, I think he would have kicked me out of the house. I don’t think I’d have a place to stay. …
“My dad used to always say ‘The grass is always greener on top of the septic tank.’ So it always looks better someplace else. So you think, instead of facing your fears and really overcoming adversity and making yourself better through the competition, you go someplace else thinking it will be better there. But until you face your fears, you’re always going to have some of those issues or problems.”
Barnett has since transferred to Arizona State, and is fighting the incumbent, Manny Wilkins, for the Sun Devils’ starting job. Even after nearly a year, though, Saban’s words still sting.
“Obviously, I didn’t expect them to be happy in any way. Them being upset and holding a grudge — that was expected to me,” Barnett told ESPN.com. “The only thing I took offense to is that Saban goes out to media and tried to diminish my reputation for a decision I made that was best for my career individually. It was kind offensive that he would go out and bash a 20-year-old.”
Barnett also took issue with how his demotion played.
According to the player, he was assured by Saban heading into the opener against USC that he “was their guy.” While there were some zone-read packages in place for the true freshman Hurts, Barnett, in his mind, was led to believe that he was the man and would remain the man.
“According to him, I was their guy,” said Barnett. “Once Jalen went in, I was expecting it. But then he went out on the next series, the next series and the next series. I don’t know if everything was communicated correctly.”
In the first two series of the USC game, Barnett completed two-of-three passes for three yards and was sacked once for a loss of 11 yards. The Tide ran just seven plays and punted twice. Trailing 3-0, Hurts entered the game on the third offensive series and, when all the dust had cleared and Barnett re-entered the game, the true freshman helped lead the Tide to a 38-3 lead in what would become a 52-6 season-opening win.
Hurts passed for a pair of touchdowns and ran for two more in the blowout win, going on to win SEC Offensive Player of the Year in helping to guide the Tide to a conference championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff. Barnett threw just 13 more passes for ‘Bama before transferring out after the fourth game of the year.