The college football world is getting a glimpse of the future this week in Beaverton, Oregon, as America's top high school seniors participate in The Opening on the campus of Nike's corporate headquarters.
For the Alabama Crimson Tide, the future looks bright. Really bright.
The 6'4", 200-pound dual-threat quarterback from Corona, California, is rated as the third-best dual-threat quarterback in the country, has tremendous accuracy downfield and can make plays on the run.
Barnett impressed the masses in Oregon since the moment the camp started, and finished it off in style claiming the title of Elite 11 champion after his strong performances in drills and 7-on-7.
Guys who've impressed during 7-on-7 include Blake Barnett, Justin Dunning, Brady White, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Will Gragg and Calvin Ridley.— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) July 9, 2014
Bama commit Blake Barnett just threw a strike to future teammate Calvin Ridley in the back of the end zone for a TD— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) July 9, 2014
That last tweet is important, because of all the receivers in camp, Calvin Ridley—a 6'2", 170-pound, 4-star prospect from Pompano Beach, Florida—was the most impressive...literally.
He claimed tournament MVP honors at "The Opening," giving Alabama the sweep of the event's most prestigious awards.
ESPN's Tom Luginbill was very impressed with Ridley during ESPNU's broadcast of the SPARQ national championship on Tuesday, saying that he has the speed, frame and route-running ability that compares favorably to current Tide wideout Amari Cooper.
A fellow member of the seven-on-seven Team Apocalypse at the event, Ridley and Barnett connected early and often, already establishing a chemistry that will benefit both of them once they arrive in Tuscaloosa.
B/R's Tyler Donohue got more from Barnett on the instant connection:
QB Blake Barnett tells me being on same team as fellow Bama commit WR Calvin Ridley helps develop chemistry before they head to Tuscaloosa.— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) July 9, 2014
Since head coach Nick Saban took over in 2007, Alabama has had stability in the passing game. Greg McElroy has hooked up with Julio Jones for plenty of success, and the AJ McCarron-Amari Cooper combination provided the sequel when Cooper got to T-Town in 2012. The Barnett-Ridley connection will be the next great quarterback-wide receiver combo to hit Tuscaloosa.
If Alabama continues its run-first approach with new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin (and there's nothing to suggest it won't), that means plenty of play-action opportunities for Ridley—where he'll be able to show off that crisp route-running and allow that connection with Barnett to flourish.
Alabama is never going to be the type of team that slings it all over the field. With the athletes it has at running back and the way it recruits up front, the running game will always be the focal point of the offense.
The Crimson Tide is at its best when it has a couple of solid receivers that can get open downfield to take the top off a defense. Ridley is that guy, and Barnett is the guy to get him the ball.
Get used to "Barnett to Ridley," because it will be a dominating theme in the SEC for years to come.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report.
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