When Blake Barnett walked away from his Notre Dame commitment earlier this month, it appeared all roads led to Oregon. Instead, the 4-star California prospect will spend his collegiate career at Alabama.
Barnett committed to the Crimson Tide on Wednesday morning, announcing his decision with Bleacher Report:
The 6'3.5", 195-pound passer picked Alabama one week after visiting Tuscaloosa, capping off a lengthy search for head coach Nick Saban. The Tide have been hunting for an elite prospect at the position since losing 5-star pledge Ricky Town to USC in late January.
Barnett, a strong-armed, fleet-footed athlete, fits the bill.
Rated third nationally among dual-threat passers, he enjoyed a dominant junior campaign at Santiago High School in Corona, California. Barnett passed for 2,322 yards and 22 touchdowns, adding 695 yards and 13 scores as a rusher.
He provides Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin with a rare talent who could help usher in a new offensive approach at Alabama. His mobility certainly contrasts recent Tide quarterbacks AJ McCarron and Greg McElroy, who combined for three national titles despite scoring just five total rushing touchdowns in five seasons.
Since seeing Town flip to USC, the Tide have whiffed on a number of targets, most notably New Jersey's Brandon Wimbush (Penn State) and New Mexico's Zach Gentry (Texas). The recruiting cycle, a perennially long and winding road, eventually led Alabama to Barnett, who spent seven months committed to Notre Dame.
Although Saban extended an offer in February, it appeared the Southern California talent was destined to head north to Eugene after decommiting from the Fighting Irish. After all, he was on campus with the Ducks during the days prior to his departure from Notre Dame's class.
Barnett's decision to turn his back on Oregon and join an SEC powerhouse provides a further reminder of the fluidity of this 2015 quarterback class. The crop of passers is special, but so many unknowns remain in play less than eight months shy of national signing day.
Here's a peek at how Wednesday's events reshape the landscape for three coveted uncommitted quarterbacks.
Yet another Southern California prospect, Waller is one of the hottest members of this recruiting class. The 4-star Anaheim product has seen a steady rise in interest during recent months, including offers from Ole Miss, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Cal and Maryland.
Alabama extended a scholarship in mid-May, and he visited Tuscaloosa earlier this month. Waller, rated No. 4 nationally among dual-threat quarterbacks, appeared to be a strong option for the Tide and included the team in his top four:
With Alabama apparently out of the picture, it would appear Notre Dame is now the front-runner. Equanimeous St. Brown, his top wide receiver at Servite High School, is also a top target for the Fighting Irish, and a package deal seems to be a realistic goal for head coach Brian Kelly.
Waller, who tallied 2,900 yards and 25 touchdowns as a senior, is projected to sign with Notre Dame by 92 percent of expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball.
Kelly may find his 2015 quarterback in California after all. However, Oregon could be encouraged to make a late push for Waller after missing out on Barnett.
Waller plans to announce his decision on July 1.
The Florida star is arguably rising just as fast as Waller. Francois has received offers from Oregon, LSU and Mississippi State since April.
He possesses one of the nation's most impressive throwing arms, though he is still learning how to harness his power and develop improved accuracy.
The 6'1", 195-pound IMG Academy (Bradenton, Florida) standout revealed six finalists Saturday morning but trimmed that list in half Wednesday after his visit to Auburn, per Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports.
Francois, rated No. 6 nationally among dual-threat quarterbacks in 247Sports' composite rankings, eliminated Tennessee, Ohio State and Notre Dame from contention. He is focused on three finalists: Florida State, Auburn and Oregon.
The Ducks could rise to the forefront after missing out on Barnett. Oregon flourishes in the kind of uptempo, quick-hit attack that suits Francois well at the next level.
He plans to share his decision late next month.
The scintillating talent led American Heritage High School to a Florida state title in 2013, finishing his junior season with 2,900 total yards and 29 scores. Rated No. 1 nationally among athletes, the jury is still out on whether Gibson is capable of orchestrating a collegiate offensive attack or if he's better suited for a future at receiver.
Regardless, it appears he'll start college with an opportunity to compete as a quarterback. He recently released a revised top seven to Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com.
Gibson's finalists, in order, are Tennessee, Auburn, LSU, Oklahoma, Central Florida, Miami and Ohio State.
So how does Barnett's decision impact his outlook?
The quarterback vacancy at Oregon could tempt Francois to take a closer look at the Ducks. If he's drawn to Eugene, that would leave the door open for an intense SEC recruiting battle between Tennessee and Alabama.
On the flip side, if Francois elects to commit to Auburn, that would make Tennessee an even stronger favorite to land the Fort Lauderdale phenom.
Recruit information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.
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