Jacob Coker standing tall at Alabama, but isn't a starter yet
HOOVER, Ala. — It didn’t take long for something to stand out about quarterback Jacob Coker to University of Alabama junior wide receiver Amari Cooper: his throws.
“Really strong arm,” Cooper said Thursday at SEC Media Days about the transfer from Florida State. “Huge upside to him.
“He overthrew me a couple of times, but I would also say that I wasn’t expecting it.”
Although Coker hasn’t participated in his first team practice with the Crimson Tide, doing nothing more than 7-on-7 drills over the summer while learning the offense, the buzz from his post-graduation arrival (with two years of eligibility remaining) will only build between now and when Alabama opens fall camp on Aug. 1.
It’s a critical position for the Crimson Tide this season, which even Nick Saban acknowledged here at the Wynfrey Hotel, but the coach was also quick to say that fans and reporters shouldn’t assume that anyone will be the starting quarterback or already has the job.
“That’s really not internally the perception by me, our staff or our players,” Saban said. “Jake Coker has the opportunity to come in and compete for the position. Blake Sims has been competing for the position. Really did a pretty good job in the spring. Didn’t play great in the spring game, but we really didn’t do the things that he’s capable of doing.
“So there’s going to be a competition there, as well as some of the younger players will be involved in that competition.”
Coker, who transferred after losing out to Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston a year ago, has played in only 10 collegiate games, and, like every other quarterback on the Alabama roster, no starts.
Last season he completed 21 of 41 passes (51.2 percent) for 295 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
The dual-threat Sims, a senior, has been in 23 games as a Crimson Tide reserve, with 355 rushing yards on 67 carries out of the read-option. He’s completed 23 of 38 attempts (59.0 percent), for 244 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception.
Sims has a slight edge in career passer-efficiency rating, 128.5 to 114.8.
“I think both of those guys are capable of playing winning football at the University of Alabama,” senior wide receiver Christion Jones diplomatically said.
But when asked specifically about the 6-foot-5 Coker, Jones echoed a lot of what Cooper said, that he’s been impressive.
“He’s a different type of quarterback,” Jones said. “He has a different type of release. He’s bigger in size. He can move faster and quicker than most other guys we’ve had at quarterback. He brings a lot to the table.”
So while Alabama is hoping that Coker’s learning curve will be shortened by having played for former Saban assistant Jimbo Fisher, it’s also simultaneously trying to keep the pressure off while tempering expectations (at least publically).
For example, while Cooper edged teammate T.J. Yeldon for having the most votes of anyone for All-SEC status in the annual media poll, Coker wasn’t even on the ballot.
Neither was Sims. It was one of the few positions in which Alabama didn’t nominate a player.
Nevertheless, Coker appears to off to a good start.
“Takes command in the huddle, which I think is very important,” Cooper said. “You can tell he’s experienced.”