ASU Sun Devils fans have reason to be excited, as Tuesday it was announced that Alabama transfer quarterback Blake Barnett would be immediately eligible to suit up in the maroon and gold next season.
There were questions as to whether or not Barnett would be required to sit out until Week 5 of the upcoming season after spending the first four weeks of 2016 with the Crimson Tide, but those concerns were put to rest after he was granted a Legislative Relief Waiver, making him eligible for the season opener.
This opens up a competition between the redshirt sophomore and incumbent junior Manny Wilkins for the Devils’ starting quarterback position.
According to SunDevilSource.com’s Chris Karpman, the former Alabama starter already “has the advantage” over Wilkins.
One reason for this is that ASU will field a new offensive coordinator in Billy Napier, the former Alabama wide receivers coach.
“The offensive coordinator that ASU’s bringing into their program now from Alabama in Billy Napier – he has no connection to anyone that’s existing on the roster,” Karpman said on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM‘s Doug and Wolf Wednesday. “So what does he care about any sort of sentimentality or whatever Manny Wilkins has already done to this point? He’s got a fresh set of eyes. He’s gonna look at, ‘Hey, who are the quarterbacks?'”
Barnett started Alabama’s first game last season before being benched in favor of freshman Jalen Hurts. The former five-star recruit out of Santiago High School ended up seeing action in three games before announcing his intention to transfer, completing 11 of 19 passes for 219 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
While Barnett is not the dual-threat Wilkins is, finishing 2016 with -17 rushing yards and no touchdowns compared to Wilkins’s 246 yards and five touchdowns, Karpman believes his style of play is a better fit for Napier’s scheme.
“(Napier)’s demonstrated over his career at Alabama and Clemson that they’re gonna play heavier sets, they’re gonna use tight ends, they’re gonna have a quarterback who’s gonna be able to be under center,” he said. “I don’t think it’s gonna be as much read option and things of that nature necessarily. All that stuff sort of lends itself more to Blake Barnett.”
Karpman doesn’t believe Wilkins will go down without a fight, however.
“I don’t think (Wilkins)’s gonna shirk whatsoever from going up against Blake Barnett or anybody because that’s just the M-O that he has,” Karpman said. “He has a moxie. He wants to be able to go ahead and compete against those guys. So now he has everything he could ask for in a guy who’s a former five-star quarterback.”
Wilkins started 10 games last season – four of which the Sun Devils won – while completing 63.3 percent of his passes and throwing for 2,329 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He missed two games due to injury in 2016.
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