Barnett, the MVP of the Elite 11 camp in 2014, was recognized as the No. 1 pocket-passer out of his class by ESPN, and the No. 2 dual-threat option according to Rivals. At 6 foot 5, 211 pounds, it’s clear why Barnett, physically, is an intriguing specimen.
However, while adding someone of Barnett’s talent, the question immediately becomes: What makes him different from the other signal callers on the roster?
The Sun Devils played Manny Wilkins, Brady White and Dillon Sterling-Cole under center this season, with Bryce Perkins sitting out the year due to a neck injury. The potential addition of Ryan Kelley muddles the situation even more.
So what does Barnett bring to the table that’s different from the other options the Sun Devils have at quarterback? Let’s take a look at what traits the newcomer possesses.
Arm Strength & Accuracy
Barnett displays good accuracy from the pocket at all three levels, but his placement while on the move has room for significant improvement.
His arm strength is adequate, and he can make throws from one hash to the opposite boundary when asked.
Barnett won’t generate eye-popping velocity on deep-to-intermediate throws, but what he lacks for in zip, he makes up for in placement.
Eyes & Decision-Making
The phrase “tunnel vision” can be associated with about 99 percent of college quarterbacks. Barnett isn’t completely innocent of it, but he’s certainly shown he’s capable of working through progressions and processing the field quickly.
Watch as he uses his eyes to manipulate the secondary before making the throw in each of the clips below.
However, while Barnett can work efficiently through his reads, he can tend to be gun-shy, causing him to hold onto the ball longer than he should.
He can be a slow decision-maker at times, or may simply abandon the play altogether like in the example below.
While his conservative approach prevents him from putting the ball in jeopardy—something Graham and offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey are very critical of—Barnett will miss out on hitting big plays because of his reluctancy to take a chance downfield.
During Alabama’s win over Western Kentucky earlier this year, one of the broadcasters explained Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban said Barnett needs to “trust what he sees.”
Though efficient, hesitation to create with his arm ultimately cost Barnett the starting job in favor of a more dynamic option in Jalen Hurts.
Barnett is an agile player. His frame and stature make his lateral movements look a little funny, but he possesses good straight-line acceleration and covers ground quickly with his length.
The Crimson Tide incorporated their run-pass option scheme and a heavy dosage of play-action plays trying to utilize his athleticism. However, Barnett is better served, and at this point appears more comfortable, operating as a drop-back passer.
What will he look like at ASU?
The Sun Devils will have the offseason, and four games into the 2017 campaign to figure out how to properly deploy Barnett.
He is still raw, and much of his success primarily hinges on two things: 1.) the play of the Sun Devils’ offensive line and 2.) his growth as a passer.
Without a group capable of allowing him time to operate in the pocket, Barnett will be rendered as ineffective as the other quarterback options ASU played this year.
Lindsey’s play-calling is especially important to Barnett’s production. He’s a player who needs easy, confidence-building throws to initially get into a rhythm, and keeping him stationary in the pocket and not being overwhelmingly creative should benefit his early development and acclimation into the ASU offense.
As far as play-calling is concerned, the passing game should look fairly similar to how it did in 2016 with Barnett under center. The hope is there’s simply better results.