With the official start of the Alabama quarterback battle, spring practice, approaching, we’ll individually break down the candidates currently on the roster to give fans an idea of what to expect and what to watch for. Up next: committed transfer Jacob Coker.
The worst kept secret in Tuscaloosa and Tallahassee was made public on Sunday, when Alabama announced it had signed Florida State backup quarterback Jacob Coker. Coker is on track to graduate in the spring from FSU in the spring, according to Andrew Gribble of al.com, and will be able to play immediately with two years of eligibility remaining.
Coker was largely an unknown for much of his high school career, being rated just a 3-star quarterback out of high school by 247Sports. Strangely enough, the hype around him never really began to grow until he lost a close quarterback battle to eventual Heisman Trophy-winner Jameis Winston.
Bruce Feldman of CBSSports.com profiled him at the BCS Championship Game, where his teammates and coaches raved about him and the buildup began.
Now that he is officially coming to Tuscaloosa, there are still a few questions around the seemingly anointed heir to AJ McCarron. Here are a couple of those questions, with explanations for each.
If he’s so good, why wasn’t he rated higher out of high school?
Coker played in a wing-T offense his first three years at St. Paul’s Episcopal High School, which didn’t allow him the opportunity to really open up in the passing game.
A mobile threat too, Coker ran the offense just fine, but scouts never saw how good his arm really could be.
In his senior year, the Saints switched to a pro-style offense and Coker threw for 1,508 yards and 16 touchdowns, according to his Florida State bio. When other teams like Alabama started calling, he had already committed to the Seminoles. According to Coker’s Rivals profile, he gave Florida State his pledge the summer before his senior year.
Essentially, he still had the talent, just didn’t play in a system where he could show it all.
So where does he figure into the Alabama quarterback competition?
Coker should be right in the mix once he gets to campus. The other five quarterbacks on the roster will get to show their stuff in spring practice, and Coker will join them in May.
He’ll have as good of a chance as anyone, even coming in late. Alabama coach Nick Saban didn’t exactly show waves of confidence towards any of the returning quarterbacks.
Blake Sims handled nearly every backup and mop-up snap last season. Sims showed good quickness and mobility, but lacked accuracy and arm strength. It’s unclear whether Saban will roll with a mobile quarterback full time or not.
Then-redshirt freshman Alec Morris, presumed by some to be the long-term option, was kept on the bench during all but a handful of snaps against Chattanooga. Saban even admitted that the now-departed Luke Del Rio was the third string quarterback last season, according to Andrew Gribble of al.com.
So it’s not like Coker is walking into a situation where a presumed starter is already in place. This really is a wide open race.
What challenges will he face to win the starting job?
The first is the aforementioned missing of spring practice.
In order to be eligible to play right away, Coker must graduate from FSU, which will take him to the end of spring. He was released from his scholarship at Florida State, so he is free to make contact with Tide coaches and maybe even take in a practice or two. He’ll have to wait until the summer to really immerse himself in the offense.
The other main factor will be chemistry with his teammates.
Part of what made McCarron so good was seemingly being on the same wavelength with his wide receivers, like Kevin Norwood. That’s what five years with the same person will do.
Coker will be jumping into a team of new faces, and the clock will be ticking on how fast he can get to know them and develop the kind of rapport needed to win championships.
Previously in this series: