Is Woody Barrett the Next Jalen Hurts?
Auburn quarterback Woody Barrett stretches during spring practice. (photo: Julie Bennett/al.com)
If one listens to sports talk radio in the South, being subjected to Alabama football is an everyday occurrence because local radio stations are all Alabama affiliates and/or carriers of the Paul Finebaum show. It was the aforementioned show that caught my ear this time last year. Alabama was going to be breaking in yet another starting quarterback, and the question was, “Who would replace the graduated Jake Coker?” It seemed like every day on the radio show, beat reporters gave the pecking order of the three competitors. Still, it was Jalen Hurts who continued to make the conversation. That was awfully interesting for a true freshman that didn’t, in any way, fit the mold of the other players.
Just weeks before the Alabama spring game, AL.com reported on the projected depth chart, and quarterbacks were the very first position group referenced. Writers had this to say on the most important position on the team: “With Jake Coker out of eligibility, Alabama again has to break in a new quarterback in 2016. The top two options appear to be Cooper Bateman and Blake Barnett. Bateman, a rising junior, should be the early favorite after finishing second to Coker and even starting the Ole Miss game over the fifth-year senior. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin likes Bateman, and the Utah native should be a good fit in his offense. Barnett, who redshirted this year, is the highly-regarded former five-star recruit. Barnett had to put on weight after arriving in Tuscaloosa, but coaches like him, and he’s viewed as the future of the offense. The wild card is David Cornwell, who looked to be a serious contender heading into fall camp, but fell off the pack and finished behind Coker, Bateman and Alec Morris.”
It is certainly interesting to read the thoughts of the writers plugged into the program. Not mentioned was Jalen Hurts, who, as everyone knows, showed out during the spring game when the other competitors were less than impressive. In the weeks that followed, the same conversations continued. Hurts never left his spot as the dark-horse while the others seemed to fall away. Eventually, Hurts was named starter and went on to be the SEC Offensive Player of the year.
Auburn has an interesting situation shaping up in its quarterback race. Most observers believe that the talented former five-star recruit, Jarrett Stidham, will become Auburn’s next starter with oft-injured Sean White being the backup.
Like Alabama’s Bateman, White has started games. He has been serviceable and even decent for Auburn. While fans admire his fight and desire to be the man at quarterback, most would agree that they have seen the full scope of White’s ability: a player with a limited arm and limited play-making ability player with good command of an oft-hamstrung offense.
Stidham may be likened to Barnett’s measurables and ability and has game film from his time at Baylor. Still, one must cautiously project Big 12 success to the SEC, especially with such a small sample size.
Then there is Woody Barrett…
Because he is a freshman and hasn’t started a college game, he is automatically dismissed, but he shouldn’t be. It wasn’t so long ago that our own AubTigerman wrote about Barrett as The Forgotten Man and caused some real conversation among our readers. That was before practice began, and not much has changed since. That’s exactly the point.
Not only has a pecking order not been named, but both coach Malzahn and offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey have said that a starter won’t be named in the spring. There are only two people this benefits. One is White, still trying to make a comeback from a broken arm in spite of competing against Stidham and his far better arm and physical ability. The other person is Barrett .
It appears the true competition is between Stidham and Barrett.
Lindsey, himself, is part of the equation. Rhett Lashlee left after a second consecutive lackluster offensive year, and another bad year will likely mean a house cleaning on the offensive side. Lindsey knows that. He also knows what he has with White. Does he want to go that route or trust another?
While Stidham has the arm talent to be an Air Raid quarterback, Auburn’s receivers have been less than spectacular the past few years. If this continues, Stidham could become irrelevant.
Barrett is the closest thing to a Malzahn-preferred dual threat quarterback. While Auburn’s road-grading run game might factor well into a Stidham-led offense, it is picture perfect for one led by Barrett. Because of that, as long as Barrett remains in the fight while the rest rearrange the deck chairs, he remains a legitimate contender to be the next Jalen Hurts.