It's Depth Chart Day at Alabama. Woo-hoo!
It's a fascinating time where coach Nick Saban is compelled to release a depth chart he insists doesn't exist. Ask him and he'll tell you there's no first, second or third team. Everything is fluid, he'll say. They only sketch a depth chart out for the game program, and we in the media eat it up.
So today, Saban will finish his weekly Monday press conference with the media and then the depth chart will be sent out, either a hard copy or e-mail. And we'll scan it quickly. And we'll see a familiar line separating at least two of the quarterbacks: "- OR -".
It's going to happen again today as Alabama looks to find a starting quarterback for the third straight season. Blake Barnett, Cooper Bateman and Jalen Hurts are all still in the competition, and Saban won't rule any of them out. He and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin have shown they aren't in a rush, even though the season opener against USC is five days away.
With that in mind, here's a quick rundown of the three candidates' resumes (listed in the order we expect them to play):
Cooper Bateman: The elder statesman, Bateman was the "- OR - " at QB along with Jake Coker for the first few games of last season. After some internal debate among the staff, Coker started the first two games against Wisconsin and Middle Tennessee before Bateman got the nod against Ole Miss. Only, he didn't play well, Coker took over and never looked back, throwing for more than 3,000 yards on his way to a national championship. Now that Coker is gone, Bateman is the only QB on the roster who has attempted a college pass. While the fourth-year junior has underwhelming accuracy downfield, he is deceivingly athletic. His 40 time rivals some receivers, and he even spent some time at the position last spring. But while his experience gives him the edge to start and his ability to execute the read-option is intriguing, there's a reason the former four-star prospect hasn't run away with the job yet. A true freshman is hot on his trail.
- OR - Jalen Hurts: No one expected Hurts to be in the thick of the competition this late. Remember, Saban has never started a true freshman quarterback for an extended period. But Hurts is special. A true dual threat, the Tennessee native and former four-star prospect has good improvisational skills as a runner and a more powerful arm than his 6-foot-2 frame would lead you to believe. He's strong as an ox, too. As Al.com reported, Hurts was a weightlifter in high school and once squatted 500 pounds as a sophomore. He'll have the typical bouts of inconsistency that come with youth, but he can make plays that Bateman can't. Whether it's in special packages or a predetermined number of series, it's likely he'll see the field against USC.
- OR - Blake Barnett: Simply put, Barnett is the guy who would come out of central casting and win a Heisman. He's tall, athletic and has a spectacular head of hair. He's from California. He's engaged to a professional surfer. And on top of all that, he's the highest-rated quarterback Saban has ever signed. As a true freshman early enrollee last spring, he turned heads, pushing Coker and Bateman throughout camp. He fell out of the race and redshirted, of course, but hopes are high that he'll develop into a special player. While Bateman and Hurts have separated themselves this year, Barnett hasn't been ruled out yet. And when you can run and pass the way he's capable of, there is no ruling him out.