Alabama's quarterback competition essentially goes to overtime
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. _ Ideally, the University of Alabama football team would have known whom its starting quarterback was in the spring, but Jacob Coker had to finish his degree so he could be eligible to play per NCAA rules and didn’t arrive until May.
Then it would have been ideal if someone had won the job during training camp, but that didn’t happen either. Neither did the next best thing, having someone named the starter before Saturday’s season opener against West Virginia at the Georgia Dome (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2).
Instead, Nick Saban has gone in the other direction and on Monday didn’t give reporters even a hint about how he might use his quarterbacks against the Mountaineers.
“We’re going to continue to rep both guys,” Saban said. “We feel like both guys have been doing a very, very good job. Obviously somebody has to start the game, and we’ll make that decision probably at some point in time this week. But I think both guys are doing a good job right now and we’re going to continue to try to develop both of those players.”
Regardless, whomever takes the first snap will be just the fourth player to start at quarterback since Brodie Croyle finished up his career at the end of the 2005 season. Despite that the fifth might just be a week away.
While senior Blake Sims led the offense through the spring and most of training camp, the Crimson Tide’s initial depth chart released to reporters Monday simply said “Blake Sims/Jake Coker,” although there was a change behind them as sophomore Alec Morris has reclaimed his spot in the pecking order ahead of redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman.
An obvious advantage of keeping things close to the vest is that it makes West Virginia’s defensive preparations more difficult because it doesn’t know what to practice against. Although both quarterbacks are pretty mobile, Sims has significant experience running the option-read while Coker has the stronger arm.
“Blake has a lot more familiarity with the system, having been here longer. I think he’s more comfortable in doing the things that we do and has done a really good job,” Saban said. “Has played really, really well in this fall camp, has played well in the scrimmages. The team has had a good rhythm when he’s in there at quarterback.
“Jacob is obviously the newer guy of the two, who doesn’t have the same knowledge and experience. I think we’re just trying to get him more and more familiar so that he play with the rhythm that we need to play with offensively. I just think it’s about confidence.”
Saban has more than once implied that the confidence factor – not just at quarterback but at other positions like cornerback as well — is something that to be earned and takes some time. Both quarterbacks are obviously working with a new offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin, but Sims had a significant head start while everything else is new to Coker, including his teammates.
They sound about as curious as the fans as for how things will play out.
“We honestly have no idea who is going to start,” senior offensive tackle Austin Shepherd said.
“I’m confident in whomever the coaches say is quarterback,” junior wide receiver Amari Cooper said.
“Both of those guys are capable of leading us to the national championship,” senior fullback Jalston Fowler said. “We just have to support them and be behind them and make sure they’re confident and have that confidence every week no matter who is playing.”