Alabama's final dress rehearsal could play big part in settling quarterback competition
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. _ University of Alabama coach Nick Saban had a one-word answer when asked how the quarterbacks might be used differently during Saturday’s closed scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium: “Nothing.”
“I mean, I don’t know,” he continued. “What do you want me to say? They’re both going to take an equal number of snaps, just like they did last week. And if you keep asking questions about it, we probably won’t give you their stats again.”
However, while Saban was giving that response during his post-practice press conference Thursday, a day after ESPN had invaded the Crimson Tide’s football facilities and repeatedly asked the coach about the quarterback competition between Phillip Sims and Jacob Coker, the SEC Network was airing a very much different taped response during its initial minutes on air.
“We are really encouraged by both players,” Saban said. “Blake has really played well, and probably developed into a more consistent player at that position than maybe I thought he could at some point in time.
“Jake has also come in, very talented guy, big guy and has a good arm. And as he sort of gets more familiar with the system and gains more confidence in what he’s doing, he’s starting to show that he’s a talented guy who can make a great contribution to our team as well.”
Regardless, if one of the players wants to show he’s ready to be the starting quarterback on Aug. 30, when Alabama opens the regular season in Atlanta against West Virginia, this would be a good time because Saturday’s scrimmage is the last of training camp.
Next week Alabama will tie up some loose ends and do some advance work on other opponents before turning its attention to the Mountaineers. The coaches will also make numerous personnel decisions, including which freshmen will likely redshirt, and presumably who will be the starting quarterback.
“This particular scrimmage, I think we’d like to see some of this be sort of game-like and play it a little bit like a game in terms of substitutions,” Saban said. “We want to get an equal amount of play to where both sides get an opportunity to be evaluated and the players on both sides get an opportunity to be evaluated. I think that it’s really important from a staff standpoint as well that we play part of the scrimmage like a game.”
Saban didn’t release the passing statistics from last week’s scrimmage that was played in the rain and at one point was suspended for 40 minutes due to lighting. This time the forecast is for clear skies and a high of 94 degrees.
“We had a lot of tempo at first, but when the rain came as circumstances came out it didn’t go so well,” senior wide receiver Christion Jones said about the first scrimmage. “A lot of that was part of the leadership trying to up-tempo guys and get guys going. I think we have to have a better mindset when those things happen so that we’re prepared for it when it happens in the season.”
In addition to quarterback, the other significant decision to be made on the offensive side is on the line, especially right guard, where sophomore Alphonse Taylor has worked with the first unit all camp and senior Leon Brown is coming off a foot injury. The other option, junior-college transfer Dominick Jackson, hasn’t practiced since sustaining a sprained ankle in the first scrimmage.
“Leon and Dominick Jackson, those guys would have both been starters, competed to be starters or at worst-case been really, really good backups and provided a tremendous amount of depth for us as a team,” Saban said. “Both of those guys are big, they’re physical.
“That’s what we’ve tried to create in the offensive line, to be a little bit more physical this year.”
Before answering that question, though, Saban couldn’t help but give the reporter a little verbal barb: “You sure you don’t want to ask me about the quarterbacks?” he said with a laugh.