If you grow up in or near Tuscaloosa, Alabama and play quarterback for the local high school, the odds are probably pretty good the dream of playing for Alabama is one that is lifelong. Whether that is the case or not, Seth Franks will be joining the Alabama program as a preferred walk-on.
Franks is the latest addition to Alabama’s Class of 2015. The decision to attend Alabama as a preferred walk-on trumped a scholarship offer from Jacksonville State, which according to Rivals was the only scholarship offer on the table for the two-star recruit. Franks passed for over 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns last season for Tuscaloosa County according to Al.com.
Alabama is currently listing five quarterbacks on the roster online, including senior Jake Coker, junior Alec Morris, sophomore Cooper Bateman and freshmen Blake Barnett and David Cornwell. The Tide came out of the spring lacking a clear winner in the quarterback battle for head coach Nick Saban, which means the competition will continue over the summer as Alabama looks to regain its mojo. Saban has kept a distance from any talk of Ohio State’s Braxton Miller and a possible transfer to Alabama, and for good reason. Franks may not be expected to jump in and surprise in the QB battle this year, but it would be quite the Cinderella story if he did.
Photo credit: Rivals
Few teams have the luxury of simply reloading during the spring in the transition from one year to the next like Alabama. Years of top-notch recruiting have allowed Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide to focus on restacking the deck rather than rebuilding on a regular basis. Alabama is still one of the betting favorites to win the SEC and will very likely be ranked highly in the preseason polls once again. Despite all of that, which has become the norm for the Tide under Saban, for the second straight spring Alabama will be faced with a question about the starting quarterback.
Who’s it going to be?
Among the candidates vying for the job of replacing Blake Sims starting this spring are Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell, Alec Morris and, yes, Jake Coker. Coker, a former transfer from Florida State, had many suspecting he would be the leading candidate for the starting job at Alabama last season, but Sims grabbed a firm hold of the job pretty early on and never let go. That worked out well for Alabama, Saban and new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. Now the work begins to find the next starting quarterback for the Tide. Could Coker come back and be the leading candidate for the job this spring?
You can also throw in freshman early enrollee Blake Barnett, one of the top quarterback recruits Saban has recruited to Alabama. Although Saban may have a knack for not giving control of the offense on the field to a true freshman, Barnett has been eager to get started with his preparation for the spring and show he is capable of handling the job. While he may be considered the future quarterback for the Crimson Tide, even he realizes he may have to wait for his time to come.
Saban, perhaps in typical Saban fashion, is not ruling it out the possibility Barnett steps in sooner than you might think.
“I wouldn’t rule that out at all,” Saban said recently, according to ESPN.com. “If he’s the best player, why would we not play him? That’s like saying a guy is from California, so we should not play him because he’s from California.”
There is no question Saban will put the players he feels give Alabama the best chance to succeed on the field at any position. If Barnett puts together a strong spring, then the conversation will not take long to heat up in Tuscaloosa. With the new College Football Playoff format in place, Alabama and any other top program has a little extra breathing room to allow for some experimentation, but Saban is not going to take long to stick to his gut when it comes time to making a quarterback decision and he will likely stick to it. It worked out with A.J. McCarron and it worked out with Sims.
So who’s next?
Alabama will feature a brand new starting quarterback this fall following the graduation of AJ McCarron. This much we know for sure: Parker McLeod will not be the new face of the Crimson Tide offense.
Multiple reports Tuesday say McLeod will be looking for a transfer out of Alabama, with head coach Nick Saban confirming to reporters at the SEC meetings he has given Parker permission to weigh his options. As noted by Al.com, Parker will be the fifth quarterback to transfer away from Alabama under Saban. Part of that is because Saban has had two quarterbacks that have proven capable of guiding the Crimson Tide in Greg McElroy and McCarron. the desire to compete and perhaps receive more playing time elsewhere has grown for some under center in Tuscaloosa.
Blake Sims and Florida State transfer Jacob Coker are expected to be the top two candidates for the starting job in 2014, but Alabama has a few other younger options hoping for a shot as well. Sophomore Alec Morris, redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman and freshman David Cornwell will all compete for playing time this fall.
There is no word yet what schools McLeod may check out, but Saturday Down South makes note he previously chose Alabama over Maryland, UCF, Boston College, Oklahoma State and Louisville. Louisville has already added a handful of SEC transfers, but each of those schools could probably benefit from adding another QB to the mix.
Alabama has plenty of quarterback news going on today. In addition to AJ McCarron not attending the Senior Bowl, Luke Del Rio , son of Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, has announced he will not be returning to the Crimson Tide in 2014.
“I had an incredible year at Bama, it’s sad to say that it will be my last,” Del Rio said on Twitter Wednesday. “I’m excited for the next chapter of my life and what it will bring, but I will always admit that Bama has the BEST fans in the nation, so much love and support through thick and thin.”
According to TideSports.com, Del Rio previously was extended scholarship offers by Oklahoma State, Oregon State and Colorado State before accepting an offer from Alabama. Whether or not those schools remain options for a transfer is anyone’s guess at this stage.
Unlike Texas Tech’s quarterback situation, Alabama seems to have options to work with starting this spring.
Del Rio took a redshirt in 2013, so he would be immediately eligible to play in the 2014 season if playing time was available or offered by another FBS program. The only other quarterback to attempt a pass for Alabama in 2013 was Blake Sims, who served as McCarron’s back-up all season. Sims figures to be the early favorite to take a lead in a spring quarterback competition for Alabama. Alec Morris also appeared in a game against Chattanooga, but the level of experience for the Crimson Tide under center after three solid years with McCarron leading the offense is relatively raw.
Another player to keep an eye on in the spring will be freshman David Cornwell. the pro-style quarterback is a four-star recruit out of Oklahoma that should be worthy of stepping in to the competition. If Nick Saban’s past is any indication, he will have little hesitation naming a young player his starting quarterback if he believes he is ready to take the lead on the field. That is exactly what he did with McCarron, and that worked out pretty well.