David Cornwell hasn’t met Jacob Coker yet, but Cornwell has “heard he’s a good kid.” Kid? Jacob Coker, the Florida State quarterback who is transferring to Alabama this summer, has been in college for three years. He’s 6-5, 230 pounds. Kid? Oh, wait. Cornwell is just a freshman, but he’s 6-5, 240 pounds.
David Cornwell is happy to be part of the number one recruiting class in the nation. Cornwell, who entered Alabama this semester in order to take part in spring practice, is looking forward to the competition. And he knows that Jacob Coker – for whom Cornwell obviously has respect -- won’t be arriving until May.
While Coker has already been penciled in at the top of the depth chart of public opinion, Cornwell said, “I came here to compete. Jacob Coker, I know he is coming in. Great kid from what I hear.
“I’m excited to go and compete with these guys, see what I’ve got. Each day I’m going to get better, even if I don’t win the job. But I’m here to compete, get better, help this team however I can.”
Cornwell said that he hasn’t met Coker. “I know he was here on official visit, but I didn’t bump into him,” Cornwell said. “I look forward to seeing him in the future.”
Cornwell and Coker have one thing in common. Both were injured last fall. Cornwell missed the last half of his senior season with a knee injury. Now he’s missing the final semester of his senior year at Norman North in Oklahoma.
Cornwell was rated the nation’s number 7 quarterback and a four-star. As a junior he passed for 2,742 yards and 27 touchdowns and ran for another 750 yards and six scores.
He said Wednesday after signing with Alabama that his knee is “doing great. Every day I’m progressing, doing better. Feels really, really good right now. Look forward to spring ball. Been throwing. Just getting back to my own self. Looking forward to compete.”
He stopped short of saying the knee would be 100 per cent by spring. He said, “I couldn’t give you a percentage. I’m testing it every day to get back to where my other knee is. I don’t know a percentage right now but it feels really good.
“I think I’m very ahead of schedule, but obviously we’ll find out in the spring.”
It’s not easy being injured. Cornwell described a normal day as he rehabilitates. “I’m doing a lot more work than I’m used to,” he said. “You’re talking three workouts a day, maybe four if I’m going to throw. It’s tough, but obviously it’s great when you get on the machine and see the result and see what you’re working for. You see (trainer) Jeff Allen get excited and then you get excited, where you are with this knee, how far it’s progressed with this struggle. I wouldn’t give up a minute of it. It cut my season short, but I met so many people on the way.
“It reassured my confidence with Alabama, how they were so caring, still let me sign with them. To get a scholarship here was very important to me.”
In addition to his knee, Cornwell is working on his feet.
“I want to be explosive,” he said, “I think if I have a good base...you know, a lot of quarterbacking starts with the feet. A lot of people don’t realize that. The feet guide the arm. I want to have active feet, [I] jump rope, footwork drills, all that stuff to get myself ready.”
Cornwell was not able to keep up with Alabama signings Wednesday. “I’ve been busy,” he said. “I’ve been in class all day. Had a math test. Just a regular season. Trying to catch up on ESPN. Cool to see all the coaches on there. Cool to see Coach Saban. Great history here.”
The freshman is aware of the magnitude of being a part of the nation’s number one recruiting class. “It’s amazing,” he said. “You look at this class and what we’ve done. I didn’t know how elite it was. All our hard work has come down to this. Coaches have done a great job; really taught some of the recruits how to go out and do it ourselves. Really appreciate that from the coaches. Great experience.”
Not that he took credit as a student-athlete recruiter.
“Zero,” he said. The credit goes to Saban, “the pedigree,” and “past players.”
He said the extent of his recruiting help was to “give them friendly reminders, advice, what I did when I decided.”
Giving up his final semester of high school “was tough,” he said. “At first you’re a little homesick. But now you’re getting into it. You realize why you’re here. Getting better each day, lifting with Coach Cochran. Relationships with the players is probably the most important thing in this whole experience and I love every minute of it.”
Alabama changed the quarterback coach between the time Cornwell committed to Bama and the time he arrived in early January. Doug Nussmeier departed for Michigan and former Tennessee and USC Head Coach Lane Kiffin joined the staff.
“But I came here for more than one thing. Coach Saban is a great coach. I’ve really gotten closer with him through this whole thing. Coach Kiffin, man. He’s the guy. I really look forward to getting to know. I think he’s going to do great things for Alabama.”
While it was disappointing to lose Nussmeier, Cornwell said having Kiffin on board is “great. You look at his pedigree as a coach, the quarterbacks he’s had. I had an opportunity to meet Mark Sanchez and talk about Coach Kiff. A lot of these quarterbacks around The League have been with Coach Kiff at USC. I really look forward to what he’s going to bring to the offense. Explosive. Great guy. Known as an awesome offensive mind on the NFL side of it. So it’s great experience already.”
Cornwell said Tide fans can expect to see Kiffin’s “explosiveness. I know he’ll bring a different kind of feel to Alabama. From what I hear, it could be a whole different offense. Not plays-wise, but how he’s going to call plays. I know he sets them up well. I watched some of his film when he was at Tennessee, how he’d set plays up, how he’d attack Bama when he was playing against them – which is very tough to do; Coach Saban does a great job on defense. Really gotten to know that. Film study with GAs has been a great experience here.”
Cornwell hasn’t been concerned with getting a playbook yet. “I haven’t gotten into that yet,” he said. “I have started with the basics, but you don’t want to mess with anything before Coach Kiffin has gotten a chance.”
Cornwell said he had thrown with fellow quartgerbacks Cooper Bateman and Blake Sims. He’s also had a conversation with star receiver Amari Cooper – admittedly, an awkward conversation. On his second day on campus, Cornwell struck up a conversation with Cooper.
Cornwell said, “He didn’t know who I was until we started talking.” Cooper finally figured out that Cornwell was a new player, “and then it was like, ‘Oh, okay!” Cornwell reported.
“It was cool,” he said. “Some of these guys know of you, but don’t know you. Just getting to know everyone, it’s like every recruit we signed – there’s an Alabama type of player, and that’s who they get here. Character, attitiude, everything. I love it.”