What was once assumed has now become reality for the 2014 Alabama Crimson Tide.
Jacob Coker, the former backup quarterback to 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston at Florida State, has signed with Alabama and will transfer into the program upon graduating from Florida State this May, according to a release from the university.
"We think a lot of Jake and we are excited to have him join our team," said head coach Nick Saban via the release. "He is not only an outstanding football player, but he is also a fine young man who we feel will be a great fit with our program at Alabama."
Coker visited Alabama over the weekend and was impressed with the program.
"I feel very comfortable with the coaches and the players, and I'm looking forward to getting started at Alabama and competing," Coker said in the release. "I also want to thank my coaches and teammates at Florida State. I had a great experience there and I'm excited to build on that at Alabama."
Players who have graduated from college can transfer to another program and play immediately, but the SEC has a ban on one-year graduate transfers being immediately eligible. Since Coker was a redshirt sophomore with the Seminoles last season, he has two years left and the rule doesn't apply to him.
In two seasons in Tallahassee, he completed 21 of 41 passes for 295 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He underwent season-ending surgery in November to repair a torn meniscus, according to Yahoo! Sports.
|Jacob Coker Career Stats at Florida State|
So what are the chances that he starts under center for the Crimson Tide against West Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game on Aug. 30?
Pretty good, for a couple of reasons.
Head coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin wouldn't bring in a two-year fix unless they felt he could contribute immediately.
The 6'5", 230-pounder pushed Winston to the end of spring practice last summer for the Seminoles' starting spot, and that system isn't much different than the one both Kiffin and Alabama have separately employed over the last few seasons.
He won't get the benefit of spring practice, but the transition to Alabama's system shouldn't be as steep for Coker as it is for other newcomers to the program.
He will also enter a quarterback battle that likely won't be settled by the time practice starts in August.
Blake Sims, Alec Morris, Parker McLeod, Cooper Bateman and David Cornwell will all compete for the job this spring. That's a lot of bodies and not a lot of first-team snaps to go around. On top of that, the level at which Cornwell—a true freshman early enrollee who's coming off an ACL injury suffered in October—will compete is still up in the air.
Kiffin will want to see what Cornwell brings to the table when he's at 100 percent, so this battle was going to rage into fall camp even if Coker wasn't a part of it.
Coker came out of St. Paul's Episcopal School in Mobile, Ala., which is also the alma mater of Alabama's most recent quarterback, AJ McCarron. He was a 3-star prospect coming out of high school, but impressed his now-former teammates in practice and the limited game action he earned over the last few years.
"He's definitely a big quarterback," Seminoles wide receiver Rashad Greene said at media day (subscription required) for the BCS National Championship Game. "He has a strong arm. He can run, he can use his legs and he's a smart guy. He has a pinpoint ball. He's a great quarterback."
Coker is the front-runner in the race, no doubt.
But the reputation that is following him to Tuscaloosa is going to do him no favors once he steps onto the practice field. His supposedly big arm coupled with the hopes that Kiffin will take the Tide to the next level will leave little-to-no margin for error. On top of that, he—or whoever ultimately wins the job—will be following McCarron, who won two national titles as a starter and a third while he was redshirting.
Keep in mind, though, that four of the last five national title-winning quarterbacks were first-year starters, with the lone exception being McCarron, when the Tide repeated during the 2012 season. On top of that, seven of the last 10 starting quarterbacks in the BCS National Championship Game were first-year starters.
History is on his side, but pressure will be too. It'll be interesting to see if he can handle it.
*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quote from the BCS National Championship Game media day was obtained firsthand. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com.
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