NCF On The Trail: David Cornwell

video
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Like any good quarterback, Blake Barnett has plenty of confidence. And why not? He’s 6-foot-5, 205 pounds, has a great head of hair and says he can throw the ball about 70 yards. He has the honor of being ESPN’s No. 1-rated pocket passer, and he’s even got some dual-threat in him, too, having rushed for 479 yards and seven touchdowns as a high school senior.

In short, the kid is the total package. So why not enroll early, dive head-long into the offense and take a shot at the starting job as a true freshman? That’s what Barnett did.

Of course, the rookie said the right things on signing day, pointing out how his focus was "getting down with the playbook, getting stronger, and preparing myself for the season ... as much as possible." But even as he ever so diplomatically explained that, "The depth chart is something I’m not completely worried about," you could feel his confidence tugging at him. When asked point-blank whether his goal was to start right away, he couldn’t say no.

"My main goal is to compete for a spot," Barnett said, "but right now that’s big-picture things. The small picture I’m focusing on right now is to get the playbook down and take it step by step. I think that’s a while away from here.

"I don’t want to say anything, make any statements right now."

And neither will his coach, Nick Saban, who said he wouldn’t rule out playing a true freshman at quarterback.

"I wouldn’t rule that out at all," he said. "If he’s the best player, why would we not play him? That’s like saying a guy is from California, so we should not play him because he’s from California."

Barnett, just so we’re clear, is from California.

But does all that mean a West Coast kid will be running Saban’s pro-style offense? In spite of Barnett’s confidence and Saban’s let-the-best-man-win attitude, that seems unlikely. Not only would he have to pass Cooper Bateman, Jake Coker, David Cornwell, and Alec Morris on the depth chart, he’d have to hurdle history, too.

Saban, for all his talk, has never fully handed over the reins of his offense to a true freshman. He didn’t at Toledo when sophomore Kevin Meger was his quarterback. He didn’t at Michigan State when he went from sophomore Tony Banks to junior Todd Schultz to junior Billy Burke. He was close at LSU, starting Jamarcus Russell four games as a redshirt freshman in 2004, but otherwise it was junior Josh Booty, senior Rohan Davey, sophomore Marcus Randall, and junior Matt Mauk.

Since arriving at Alabama in 2007, Saban has continued to side with experience, going from junior John Parker Wilson to junior Greg McElroy to redshirt sophomore AJ McCarron to fifth-year senior Blake Sims.

In what will be Saban’s 20th season coaching the college game, can we really expect him to change his stripes? Is Barnett good enough to convince him that a rookie can handle the responsibility?

If anything, Barnett has the tools to pull off the upset. He talks a pretty good game, too.

Now all he has to do is get his coach to have confidence in him.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- They’re talented. So, so talented.

With 19 ESPN 300 signees -- three more than any other school and twice the average of the SEC -- there is no doubt that Alabama has the most stacked recruiting class in college football. Coach Nick Saban not only signed the country’s No. 1 passer (Blake Barnett), he signed its No. 1 receiver (Calvin Ridley), its No. 2 running back (Damien Harris) and its No. 3 cornerback (Kendall Sheffield). Not to mention the 14 other players he signed who rank among the top 10 at their respective positions.
It’s staggering really.

But there is a bigger question at play. Because it is Alabama and because it holds ESPN's recruiting title for four years running now, you have to look at things differently. Unlike Florida, which is rebuilding under a new head coach, or Auburn, which went after better personnel on defense, Alabama didn’t have to make wholesale changes or cover up obvious deficiencies on its roster. With 54 ESPN 300 recruits already on campus, the talent was there before signing day ever began.

So at what point do you move past the obvious recruiting numbers and ask whether Alabama is truly any better than it was at this time a year ago? Trading one blue-chip prospect for another doesn’t guarantee anything. It only begs the question: do any of these new recruits translate to a national championship in 2015?

In a sense, this was what Saban was getting at when he told reporters on Wednesday that, "Every coach is going to stand here at this podium ... and say they're pleased with the guys they recruited."

"No one has a bad recruiting class," he explained. "And we're certainly pleased with our guys, but predicting how a young person is going to do academically and athletically in college by giving them some rating when he's in high school is not very scientific.

"We try to use science to create things that are very subjective in terms of what someone's performance is going to be, and I don't think that's really possible. There's no scientific way to know what the achievement of any person is going to be in anything they try to do. It's impossible."

He’s right, there is no way of knowing. Just look at the quarterback position where Alabama has signed seven prospects since 2010, including Phillip Sims, who ranked No. 1 out of high school, David Cornwell and Cooper Bateman, who each ranked in the top five, and Jake Coker, who was viewed as an uber talent upon leaving Florida State. Who won the job last season? A three-star athlete. A fifth-year senior. A former running back by the name of Blake Sims.

Talent is great, but development trumps all.

It’s why the secondary took a step back last season and is not guaranteed to get better in 2015. Because though you could say that signing cornerbacks like Sheffield and four-star Minkah Fitzpatrick will help, you have to at least acknowledge the year before when five-star freshmen Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey had little impact. For that matter, neither did sophomores and former four-star recruits Maurice Smith and Anthony Averett.

That is not to say those players won’t become starters with time, only that you can’t get carried away with what happens on signing day. At least you can’t when it’s Alabama and you’ve watched it carry home the recruiting trophy four years in a row.

Saban signed the best players in the country on Wednesday. He signed the players who best fit his team’s needs. And he will probably send a few of them to the NFL in time.

But what has changed? The same things were true last year before Alabama lost to Ohio State in the playoff, and the same things were true the year before, when Alabama's championship drought began.

You have to respect the talent Saban has assembled, but when the four- and five-stars become too many to count, you move on to what it all means. And when you venture into the territory of predicting a No. 1 class will lead to the country's No. 1 team, you're not relying on science. Knowing that with certainty is impossible.

Midyear signings: Bama adds six freshmen

January, 10, 2014
1/10/14
1:10
PM ET
According to RollTide.com, the following players have enrolled at Alabama:

Cameron Robinson OT West Monroe, La./West Monroe
HT: 6-5 WT: 300
Positional Rank: #1 OT
Stars: 5
ESPN 300 (#3)
Under Armour All-American

Tony Brown CB Beaumont, Texas/Ozen
HT: 6-0 WT: 196
Positional Rank: #4 CB
Stars: 5
ESPN 300 (#11)
Under Armour All-American

Laurence Jones S Monroe, La./Neville
HT: 6-2 WT: 208
Positional Rank: #2 S
Stars: 4
ESPN 300 (#22)
Under Armour All-American

David Cornwell QB-PP Norman, Okla./Norman
HT: 6-5 WT: 241
Positional Rank: #2 QB-PP
Stars: 4
ESPN 300 (#43)
Under Armour All-American

Cameron Sims WR Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish
HT: 6-4 WT: 190
Positional Rank: #8 WR
Stars: 4
ESPN 300 (#63)
Under Armour All-American

Shaun Dion Hamilton ILB Montgomery, Ala./Carver
HT: 5-11 WT: 234
Positional Rank: #6 ILB
Stars: 4

In December, ESPN's Gerry Hamilton reported that ESPN JC50 defensive linemen D.J. Pettway (Pensacola, Fla./East Mississippi CC) and Jarran Reed (Goldsboro, N.C./East Mississippi CC) also signed with the Tide.

Recruit and return: Alabama Crimson Tide 

January, 3, 2014
1/03/14
12:30
AM ET
Alabama’s season might not have ended the way the Crimson Tide wanted -- and let’s face it, anything short of a national championship was going to be disappointing -- but they still finished 11-2.

Off the field, Alabama has continued its recruiting dominance in the 2014 cycle. The Crimson Tide currently have the No. 1 class and still have a chance to have a strong finish. With signing a month away, here’s a closer look where the Tide stand in recruiting.

How pocket passers compare 

December, 24, 2013
12/24/13
9:00
AM ET
It is becoming more and more difficult to find favorable comparisons for true pocket passers because the definition of the quintessential pocket passer has changed so much.

Even dropback guys now seem to have enough athleticism to make things happen with their feet. Offensive schemes almost always feature some form of the spread offense, even if it’s just a wrinkle.

Our top five pocket passers in this class all possess enough athleticism to be effective or make second reaction throws, but are at their best moving the ball with their arm, not their legs.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SEC recruiting storylines: Dec. 12 

December, 12, 2013
12/12/13
2:21
PM ET
Another wild week of recruiting in the SEC is in the rearview mirror. Today, the Florida Gators take center stage with all eyes on Alabama heading into the weekend of official visits before the dead period begins Dec. 16.

Gators nab one of the nation's best

No. 18 David Sharpe (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence School) seemed to be a Florida lean for more than a year. After trips to Georgia twice during the season and official visits to Tennessee and Florida in November, the 6-foot-6, 288-pound four-star offensive tackle made it official Thursday, committing to the Gators.

Sharpe becomes the 17th commitment for head coach Will Muschamp and his staff, including the 10th ESPN 300 prospect to select the Gators.

Speaking of Florida, the final decision of No. 20-ranked Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central) likely will come following the Rockets' state title game this weekend. Florida is fighting Florida State and Miami to keep the explosive playmaker.

Make it two for Thursday


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

#AskLoogs: Letting Cornwell get away

November, 14, 2013
11/14/13
12:30
PM ET
Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation senior analyst Tom Luginbill a question about your team? Tweet it to @TomLuginbill using the hashtag #AskLoogs.



This is a great question that applies to every program in America when it comes to making tough, in-state decisions on prospects.

If I’m Oklahoma, this situation wasn’t as tough of a decision as you might think. Take David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./Norman) first: Physically he is superior to Justice Hansen (Edmond, Okla./Edmond Santa Fe) in some areas, but is not as experienced. Coming into this season he had only been a starter for one year, so from an evaluation standpoint, there was a lot more video evidence and experience to evaluate with Hansen than there was Cornwell.

Also, you must consider the camp evaluation that took place earlier for Oklahoma to make in-person assessments on a player that they might feel is a better fit overall.

Keep in mind, this isn’t only about physical ability. It’s about several critical factors at the position that Oklahoma as a staff places a premium on, and through their efforts, if they feel Hansen possesses more of what they want to have than Cornwell, then you have to pull the trigger.

Recruiting is about making tough decisions each and every day, and none tougher than choosing between two quality prospects in state at the most important position of all. There are no guarantees Cornwell will pan out, and the same goes for Hansen. It’s a risk, albeit a calculated one, based on gathering information and making an educated decision.

This does not mean that Oklahoma dislikes Cornwell -- in fact, they like him very much -- but believe Hansen is further along and a better fit.

This same question you posed to be could be the same question had Cornwell committed to Oklahoma and Hansen to Bama, only the answer might not be quite the same.
There is not a single position more important in any sport than quarterback. With LSU and Alabama set for their annual showdown on Saturday, and both starting signal callers being seniors, it's time to take a look ahead at what the position holds following the graduation of Zach Mettenberger and AJ McCarron.

When looking at the future of quarterback recruiting for both SEC powers, one has to start with a look back at the 2013 signing class, as signal callers from that class likely will figure prominently in the future race for both teams.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Movers, shakers in updated ESPN 300

October, 29, 2013
10/29/13
9:00
PM ET

The Class of 2014 has had two months to show what it’s made of on the field. How are the nation’s elite prospects faring as we approach signing day? Here’s a look at the biggest names and notes from the most recent update of the ESPN 300:

The Big Movers

No. 37 Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield South), ILB
Prior ranking: No. 59
The 6-foot-2, 224-pound Garrett jumped more than 20 spots in the rankings as he has added bulk to his frame, and at the same time retaining quickness and his fast-filling, downhill ability. Garrett has impact-type ability with a blend of lateral quickness, discipline and a nose for the ball.

Davion Hall
Max Olson/ESPNAthlete Davion Hall, who is committed to Baylor, jumped 30 spots in the latest update of the ESPN 300.
No. 45 Davion Hall (Texarkana, Texas/Liberty-Eylau), ATH
Prior ranking: No. 75
The 6-2, 194-pound Hall is one of the most impressive athletes in the class. He has a long, stoutly-built frame, is explosive, has physicality filling the alley at safety and very good ball skills at receiver. When he settles into one position at the next level, his upside is very high.

No. 64 Nick Chubb (Cedartown, Ga./Cedartown), RB
Prior ranking: No. 106
The Georgia commit is putting together a sensational senior campaign with more than 2,000 yards and 29 touchdowns through eight games. The 5-11, 217-pound tailback continues to add strength to his compact body structure while maintaining his speed, overall athleticism and ability to bend.

No. 70 Chad Thomas (Miami/Booker T. Washington), DE
Prior ranking: No. 125
The Miami commit has flashed his high-ceiling ability, even though he is playing inside more than half the snaps as a senior. His combination of first-step quickness, arm length and the ability to play with low pad level sets him apart from most ends in the class.

No. 84 Rashaan Evans (Auburn Ala./Auburn), OLB
Prior ranking: No. 150
The 6-3, 217-pound Evans has filled out physically, and displays the quick-twitch burst and speed combination to be a factor off the edge. Evans has been dominant off the edge as a senior with double-digit sacks.

No. 92 Markell Pack (Purvis, Miss./Purvis), WR
Prior ranking: No. 144
The Florida State commit continues to flash the initial quickness, ability to get to top-end speed quickly, ability to play the ball in the air and elusiveness that makes the 6-2, 180-pound wideout one of the top playmakers in the class.

No. 128 Brad Kaaya (Hollywood, Calif./Chaminade College Prep)
Prior ranking: No. 171
The 6-4, 213-pound Miami commit is one the fastest rising quarterbacks in the class. Has added bulk to his tall frame, and continues to show the foot quickness, foot work and quick release that will be demanded of him at the next level.

Other Big Movers

WR Josh Malone (Gallatin, Tenn./Station Camp): From No. 99 to 49.
Texas A&M ATH commit Nick Harvey (Richmond, Texas/William B. Travis): From No. 101 to 60.
RB Joe Mixon (Berkeley, Calif./Freedom): From No. 100 to 72.
Georgia QB-DT commit Jacob Park (Goose Creek, S.C./Stratford): From No. 157 to 94.
Oregon RB commit Royce Freeman (Imperial, Calif./Imperial): From No. 154 to 99.
RB Derrell Scott (Havelock, N.C./Havelock): From No. 176 to 108.
Ole Miss S commit C.J. Hampton (Meridian, Miss./Meridian): From No. 201 to 134.
Alabama C commit J.C. Hassenauer (Woodbury, Minn./East Ridge): From No. 246 to 188.
Georgia DT commit Dontavius Russell (Carrollton, Ga./Carrollton): From No. 266 to 201

ESPN 300 debuts
No. 89 Frank Iheanacho (Houston/Westbury), WR
The 6-6, 215-pound pass catcher returned to the football field as a senior after playing only basketball as a junior, and has quickly become one of the most coveted uncommitted prospects in the country featuring deceptive initial quickness, and the high-point timing and size to win 50-50 balls in the air.

No. 287 Darrion Owens (Orange Park, Fla./Oakleaf), OLB
The 6-3, 220-pound Owens has transitioned from safety to outside linebacker as a senior without skipping a beat. Long, rangy and with edge-rush ability, the Miami commit is a top senior riser.

No. 295 Shakenneth Williams (Macon, Ga./Rutland), WR
The 6-1, 196-pound Georgia commit was a standout at Mark Richt Camp in June. Williams is blessed with straight-line speed, change-of-direction ability, strong hands and the physicality and strength to play through contact.

[+] EnlargeJoe Mixon
Tom Hauck for Student SportsTailback Joe Mixon is ranked No. 72 in the latest update of the ESPN 300.
More Who Moved Into The ESPN 300

Ohio State ATH commit Curtis Samuel (Brooklyn, N.Y./Erasmus Hall): No. 148.
LSU DE commit Deondre Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass): No. 298.
Baylor WR commit Ishmael Zamora (Alief, Texas/Elsik): No. 245
Alabama OLB commit Keith Holcombe (Tuscaloosa, Ala./Hillcrest): No. 284.
DT Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes): No. 257.
DT Matt Elam (Elizabethtown, Ky./John Hardin): No. 292.
Minnesota RB commit Jeff Jones (Minneapolis/Washburn): No. 181.
Virginia Tech DT commit Ricky Walker (Hampton, Va./Bethel): No. 299.

Injured Reserve

David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./Norman North), QB
The Alabama commit suffered a season-ending knee injury. The 6-5, 241-pound Under Armour All-American is No. 44 after being 32nd previously.

Jalen Hurd (Hendersonville, Tenn./Beech), RB
The Tennessee commit suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the opener, requiring a second shoulder operation in less than a year. The 6-4, 222-pound Hurd is now No. 62 after being 39th.

Drake Harris (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian), WR
The 6-3, 172-pound Harris hasn't played this season due to a lingering hamstring issue. The Michigan commit checks in at No. 85 after previously being 72nd.

Elisha Shaw (Tucker, Ga./Tucker), DT
The 6-6, 295-pound Shaw has been sidelined with a neck injury this season. He checks in at No. 186 after a prior ranking of 82nd.

Sharieff Rhaheed (Fort Pierce, Fla./Fort Pierce Central), OLB
The 6-2, 202-pound Rhaheed missed the first six games of the season before returning to the field in late October. The former LSU commit is No. 260 after being ranked 133rd previously.

Kyle Berger (Cleveland/Saint Ignatius), OLB
The Ohio State commit was sidelined his senior season with an ACL tear. He dropped out of the ESPN 300 after being ranked No. 281.

Treyvon Paulk (Milton, Ga./Milton High), RB
The Tennessee running back commitment recently suffered a season-ending knee injury. He dropped out of the ESPN 300 after previously being ranked No. 294.

Big 12 ESPN 300 analysis 

October, 29, 2013
10/29/13
8:00
PM ET

With the release of the latest ESPN 300, some players saw jumps while others took slight falls. And then there were some, such as one particular Houston wide receiver still looking to make a name for himself as a varsity football player, who saw their rankings skyrocket.

Here’s an update on some of the highs and lows of players either committed to, targeted by or living near Big 12 programs:

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: With the first edition of this year’s BCS rankings released Sunday, we take a look at how the top five teams in are faring on the college football recruiting trail.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Best SEC recruiters 

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
8:00
PM ET

Editor's note: For a look at the national recruiter power rankings based only on Class of 2014 success, click here.

It's no secret that Southeastern Conference has been the top conference in the country as far as recruiting over the last several years. The league currently has six teams ranked in the top 11 of the team recruiting rankings. Here's a look at the top 10 recruiters around the ultra-competitive conference.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation senior analyst Tom Luginbill a question about your team? Tweet it to @TomLuginbill using the hashtag #AskLoogs.



So much of that question depends solely on just how talented he is. Stats are only a minimal part of the equation. Measurables, speed, explosiveness, power, strength, balance, vision, maturity and academic progress will be what matters most, especially if he is a player who could come in mid-year.

This was a similar case with current FSU defensive end Chris Casher who sat out his senior season because of a transfer and academics, but he played a premium position and showed dominance as a sophomore and junior. He has a chance to be a potential difference-maker in time.

The issue with running backs in this scenario is that there are a ton of them available every year. Coaches could be more prone to potentially go another direction or place the player in a prep school to be recruited in another year. This is not always the case for defensive end, offensive tackles, cornerbacks and quarterbacks, as coaches are going to be more prone to overlook a senior year not being completed.

This scenario almost played out with 2014 QB-PP David Cornwell, but he was able to play despite an age issue because he appealed and won. He’s a quarterback, so it carries more weight.

The bottom line is that difference-makers are not going to be bypassed. The less visible or quality of talent, the more this would have an effect.

#AskLoogs: David Cornwell's best trait

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
12:30
PM ET
Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation senior analyst Tom Luginbill a question about your team? Tweet it to @TomLuginbill using the hashtag #AskLoogs.



For David Cornwell, without question, it is his raw natural tools and physical stature. His arm stands out. With that being said, he is also very green and lacks some of the experience of his counterparts coming out of high school. This will only be his second full season as a starter due to a few transfers and a family illness with his mother. Cornwell has been highly coveted because he can do things physically that you can’t coach and he is gifted with outstanding size and underrated athleticism. He has powerful arm talent to attack every nook and cranny of the field which really opens up the passing game for any scheme. The key to Cornwell’s development is playing experience and enhanced technical discipline with his feet and throwing mechanics. He needs to be honed and polished. Regardless, there are few if any players in this class that are blessed with his blend of size, arm, power and ability to extend a play given his stature.

The Early Offer: Meet Tyler Murphy 

September, 23, 2013
9/23/13
5:30
AM ET
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's latest feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: When Florida recruited Tyler Murphy it knew he was an effective dual-threat quarterback, and now it’s his job to lead the Gators through the rest of the SEC schedule; the Under Armour All-America Game is right around the corner and the roster is loaded again for the Class of 2014; Tennessee lost to Florida Saturday, but also received big recruiting news from the Class 2015.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SPONSORED HEADLINES