Arizona State Football

Blake Barnett Says Nick Saban's Criticism After USC Game Played Role in Transfer

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 3: Blake Barnett #8 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws against the USC Trojans in the first quarter during the AdvoCare Classic at AT&T Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistFebruary 16, 2017

Current Arizona State and former Alabama quarterback Blake Barnett revealed Thursday that critical comments made by Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban led to his decision to transfer.

Barnett won Alabama's starting quarterback job going into the 2016 campaign and started the season opener against USC, but he was replaced by Jalen Hurts after a slow start.

According to ESPN.com's Ted Miller, Saban said publicly that Barnett was "nervous" during the USC game, which is something the California native took issue with: "A lot of backlash that I received from [the USC game] was that I came out nervous. I think you could ask just about every teammate, and they'd agree that I wasn't. But a certain coach went out to the media and said that I was, and so I got that negative reputation from it."

Barnett completed 11 of 19 pass attempts for 219 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions on the season, while Hurts assumed the starting role, won SEC Offensive Player of the Year honors and led Bama to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

Following Barnett's decision to transfer in September, Saban suggested on his weekly radio show (h/t AL.com's Michael Casagrande) that he had quit on the team:

It's one of those things where I think the culture has changed a little bit. I think there's a certain pride people have in competition. There's certain things that I was taught growing up about not quitting and seeing things through. I think if I would have come home and told my dad that I was going to quit the team, I think he would have kicked me out of the house. I don't think I'd have a place to stay.

With Hurts entrenching himself as the starter last season as a freshman, there was little opportunity for playing time for Barnett at Alabama.

At ASU, however, he has a legitimate chance to start in 2017 during his redshirt sophomore campaign.

Although Manny Wilkins will return for his junior season after starting the bulk of the contests for the Sun Devils in 2016, he had an up-and-down year that left the door open for Barnett to take control in much the same way Hurts did at Alabama last season.

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