At this time last year, the quarterback competition at Alabama was one of the top stories in the country. The Tide, defending national champions at the time, were looking to replace Jake Coker.
Cooper Bateman was the primary holder for field goals and extra point attempts and backup quarterback to both Coker and Blake Sims in his three years in Tuscaloosa. He had started just one game, in 2015 against Ole Miss, but was a frequent competitor in the seemingly never-ending quarterback battles.
Blake Barnett was an early enrollee and consensus five-star prospect, MVP of the Elite 11 Quarterback Competition and a huge signee for Alabama, luring the Corona, Calif. quarterback away from the likes of Oregon, UCLA and Notre Dame in the 2015 recruiting cycle. Barnett redshirted the 2015 season and going into 2016 he was named the starter for the season opener against USC.
Barnett played two series against the Trojans before he was replaced by then-true freshman Jalen Hurts. In discussions with ESPN.com, both Barnett and Bateman said they expected to share time. When the Alabama coaching staff committed to Hurts as the team's QB1 early in the season, both players were surprised with their new status as backups to the eventual SEC Offensive Player of the Year.
"According to [Saban], I was their guy," Barnett told ESPN. "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."
Barnett left the program after just four games and transferred to Arizona State. He won his appeal with the NCAA to be eligible for the 2017 season and is competing to take the job from returning starter Manny Wilkins.
Bateman remained with Alabama through the end of the regular season and then moved on to Utah as a graduate transfer.
"How things were communicated, there was a lack of communication," Bateman added. "I knew I didn't want to be involved with that anymore, but fortunately that was the first game of the season -- 12, 13 more to go. I put my head down and battled through it. I knew after that first game that I didn't really want to be a part of it anymore."
Alabama's quarterback room going into 2017 is arguably as strong as it's ever been under Saban after the signing of Tua Tagovailoa, a five-star prospect and the nation's top-ranked dual-threat quarterback. Tagovailoa showed up on campus in January, participated in spring practice and will be ready to go if needed.