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ESPN’s Tom Luginbill suggests Blake Barnett’s transfer to ASU raises red flags

Dec 8, 2016, 8:31 AM | Updated: 4:49 pm
Alabama quarterback Blake Barnett (8) looks for an opening against Southern California linebacker M...
Alabama quarterback Blake Barnett (8) looks for an opening against Southern California linebacker Michael Hutchings (19) and linebacker Cameron Smith (35) during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
LISTEN: Tom Luginbill, ESPN college football insider

Todd Graham’s Arizona State Sun Devils got some good news earlier this week when former Alabama quarterback Blake Barnett gave a verbal commitment to transfer in time for the 2017 season.

Following a disappointing 5-7 season that saw ASU’s streak of six straight years playing in a bowl game come to an end, any news on this front is good news.

Or is it?

ESPN college football analyst Tom Luginbill suggested Barnett’s transfer to Tempe should raise some red flags.

“He’s a very, very talented kid. He’s a physically gifted kid,” Luginbill told Doug and Wolf Thursday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “I was, quite frankly, surprised when he chose to make the move at the time he made it when he left Alabama.”

Barnett began the season as the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback, but the job didn’t last long. The redshirt freshman played the first two series in the season opener against USC, but was replaced by true freshman Jalen Hurts on Alabama’s third drive. Hurts fumbled on his first college play, but stayed in the game, leading the Tide to a 38-6 lead midway through the third quarter. Alabama won, 52-6, and Hurts held on to the starter’s job.

Barnett would go on to see limited action in three of Alabama’s first four games, before announcing he was leaving the program in late September.

“I bring this up because I think it’s something that has been, needs to be and should be scrutinized in relationship to competitive temperament and the thought and the notion that the team comes first,” Luginbill said. “To pull up and leave a football team, just up and leave, prior to the middle of the season…I’ve talked to Lane Kiffin about this, and coaches understand that there’s competition and you may get beat out and if you have several years of eligibility left, it’s probably in your best interest to go elsewhere.

“But generally, you do that when the season’s done and everything’s in the books and you sit down with the coach and you say ‘listen, I’m going to need to move on.’ The coaches are going to help you do that, they understand. I think the Alabama coaches had a hard time with this one. That left a sour taste, not only in their mouths, but then left a negative perception on behalf of Blake Barnett’s decision making. Fair or unfair, that goes with the position because that goes with the position.”

Luginbill isn’t the first to suggest this decision could affect Barnett in the future. Following the decision to leave Alabama, Rainer Sabin wrote an article for AL.com in which he interviewed longtime NFL pro personnel man Greg Gabriel.

“If he turns out to be a star wherever he ends up, it still is going to haunt him somewhat,” said Greg Gabriel, the former director of college scouting for the Chicago Bears and a 30-year veteran in pro personnel. “If he becomes a prospect, then it becomes a red flag that needs to be answered. To me it’s a red flag on his football character and his personal character. They are two separate things.”

By transferring when he did, Barnett, who has already utilized his redshirt season, can become eligible in Week 5 of 2017, when the Sun Devils will be at the beginning of their Pac-12 slate of games. But Luginbill doesn’t believe Barnett will just be handed the keys to the ASU offense just because he chose them in the secondary recruiting process.

“If you’re at ASU, or wherever Blake would’ve ended up, and you’ve got a quarterback who has won the job and has started, if you’re Blake Barnett, you can’t expect the reins to just be handed over to you because you tranferred there,” he said. “So it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. Do I think he’s a physical and athletic upgrade to what they have at quarterback? Yes I do.

“I don’t know if it’s a great fit, though.”

It’s fair to point out that Barnett isn’t the first highly-touted quarterback in the Class of 2015 to transfer. Kyler Murray, who was rated by Rivals.com as the nation’s fifth-best dual-threat quarterback, transferred from Texas A&M to Oklahoma after his freshman season in 2015. Jarrett Stidham, who was ranked sixth on the Rivals list, left Baylor after one season and is expected to announce his next stop soon.

Arizona State, at least now, has a crowded quarterback room. Manny Wilkins, who started nine games in 2016, returns, as do backups Brady White, Bryce Perkins and Dillon Sterling-Cole. In May, Arizona State got a commitment from Chandler Basha High quarterback Ryan Kelley, who had originally committed to Oregon before changing course.

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ESPN’s Tom Luginbill suggests Blake Barnett’s transfer to ASU raises red flags