Saban and players discuss ongoing quarterback competition following first spring scrimmage

Alabama quarterbacks Blake Barnett and Cooper Bateman at spring practice on April 1, 2016.

Matthew Speakman

“Every year’s been a different quarterback,” said senior O.J. Howard. “It’s the same situation, so basically we’re used to it when we come [into spring] without a quarterback and have a competition.”

During its first scrimmage on Saturday, the team saw four quarterbacks face the opportunity to command the offense. One of Alabama’s candidates, Cooper Bateman, is trying to finally take over the position after competing for it last year as well.

Coach Nick Saban said the veteran quarterbacks showed consistency in the scrimmage, which was fueled by their amount of time in the program.

“I think the guys with the most knowledge and experience played the best,” he said. “We also recognize that when I say that I am talking about Cooper Bateman, who has been in the system the longest, and David Cornwell.”

With that experience comes leadership. The quarterback usually has to command the huddle and make the calls for the offense. Howard believes Bateman showed the signs of a leader during Alabama’s first scrimmage.

“He has experience and leadership that comes with it,” Howard said. “So, he knows what he needs to do. He knows the system very well. It’s just natural for him to be a leader in the huddle.”

Bateman has shown that he is a little bit more mobile than a lot of former Alabama quarterbacks. That added athleticism can give Alabama a different dynamic for the team on the offensive side of the ball. Howard said that Bateman can bring that ability to take off when the play breaks down.

“He’s a guy who can scramble; he can run,” he said. “He actually has really, really good speed. He’s faster than me, so he’s fast, athletic.”

This spring, Bateman is competing with three other quarterbacks to try and win over the starting position. Cornwell, redshirt freshman Blake Barnett and freshman Jalen Hurts are trying to win the battle over Bateman to be the Crimson Tide’s starter.

The offensive line is charged with protecting the quarterback, whoever that might be. Since the line has that task, the quarterback has to show the line that he can get the job done. Even with so many players in the mix, sophomore Ross Pierschbacher said the line is focused on its task of keeping defenders off of the quarterback.

“Whoever is in there, we’re going to protect him and do the job that we have to do,” Pierschbacher said.

Even though Saban highlighted the performances of the veterans, he believes the other quarterbacks still have a chance to compete. Alabama is trying to give each of the competitors an opportunity to prove themselves while the position is still up in the air.

“We are continuing to give every guy an opportunity,” Saban said. “I think we will probably do that for the rest of the spring.”