Meet Blake Barnett, the Elite 11 2014 MVP

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistJuly 10, 2014

USA Today

It's been a steady climb to the top for Blake Barnett, who capped a fantastic week at Nike's "The Opening" with a win in the seven-on-seven championship game and the Elite 11 MVP Award, given to the camp's top quarterback.

Here he is accepting the award:

"It's a great group of quarterbacks and I'm glad I had the opportunity to come out here and compete against the best," Barnett said after winning, per Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue. "It's an honor."

That humility is part of what makes Barnett so sought-after. And it's not an act, either. After spending some time with him and his family this past week, Donohue spoke highly of Barnett—not just as the on-field star of "The Opening," but as an impressive young man:

Barnett is the No. 63 overall player and the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback on the 247Sports composite rankings.

Among the many talented quarterbacks he beat for MVP honors were the only four who rank ahead of him: Josh Rosen (UCLA), Kyler Murray (Texas A&M), Ricky Town (USC) and Jarrett Stidham (Texas Tech).

Barnett himself is committed to Alabama, but the road the Corona, California, native has taken to get here has been complicated.

According to Tom Loy of 247Sports, he didn't really hit the national recruiting scene until appearing at a few local camps last September. Afterward, he was graded an 88 on 247Sports' subjective ratings—a score that in hindsight looks low but at the time represented a sea change in his recruitment.

He committed to Notre Dame on November 24, one day after taking an unofficial visit to South Bend. But as the year went on and his rating continued to climb—first to a 90, then to a 94, then to a 95 and now to a 96—he began to bring in offers from other schools.

He wondered if he had committed too soon.

Eventually, he decided that he had. He took an unofficial visit to Oregon on June 2, decommitted from the Irish on June 4, visited Alabama on June 11 and committed to the Crimson Tide on June 18, announcing his decision live with Adam Lefkoe of Bleacher Report:

"I think I committed too early," Barnett told Bleacher Report's Chris Simms of his decision to leave Notre Dame. "I jumped on the whole Notre Dame picture—I jumped on it really fast.

"I didn't really get to explore all the schools and the places that I had an opportunity to, and I think as time went on I regretted that."

If he sticks with Alabama throughout the cycle—and there's no reason to think he won't—Barnett could redefine what it means to be a Crimson Tide quarterback under Nick Saban.

His mobility sets him apart from forerunners such as AJ McCarron, Greg McElroy and John Parker Wilson, and his size (6'4.5", 200 lbs) and arm talent set him apart from current senior Blake Sims. 

He's the best combination of raw, athletic tools that Saban has landed at the position.

And Barnett is already ahead of the game when it comes to a rapport with future teammates. He was paired with fellow Alabama commit Calvin Ridley, the No. 40 overall player and No. 6 wide receiver in the country, during the tournament, and the chemistry they showed in Beaverton was a sight to make 'Bama fans blush.

"Get used to 'Barnett to Ridley,'" wrote B/R's Barrett Sallee, "because it will be a dominating theme in the SEC for years to come."

"We really found a rhythm together," Barnett told Donohue of playing with Ridley. "He's such a talented receiver, and it's big that we have a chance to build some chemistry before we both arrive at Alabama."

The Crimson Tide have options at quarterback—just as they do at every position. Florida State transfer Jacob Coker might still be around next season, and even if he isn't, former blue-chippers Cooper Bateman and David Cornwell will still be underclassmen.

There are no clear paths to playing time in Tuscaloosa.

But if Barnett shows to Saban and Lane Kiffin what he showed Trent Dilfer—and, really, the entire college football scouting community—in Beaverton, it will be impossible to keep him off the field.


Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT