Alabama's battle to replace quarterback AJ McCarron will be one of the SEC's top offseason storylines. After all, McCarron's eventual successor will have to fill the shoes of a man who won two BCS National Championships as a starter, one SEC championship at the helm and finished second in the 2013 Heisman Trophy voting.
But while head coach Nick Saban's quest to find McCarron's successor will be analyzed ad nauseam over the next six months, the real battle won't take place until Jacob Coker gets there. The rising redshirt junior and former backup at Florida State to Jameis Winston is finishing up his degree and transferring to Alabama this summer, essentially ensuring that no decision on the quarterback race will be made before he has a chance to practice during fall camp.
So in spring practice, it'll be up to senior Blake Sims, sophomore Alec Morris, redshirt freshman Parker McLeod, redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman and true freshman David Cornwell to jockey for position before Coker sets foot on campus.
The man with the biggest spotlight on him should be Bateman.
The former 4-star prospect in the class of 2013 came to Tuscaloosa last January as the No. 5 pro-style prospect in the nation. With a big arm, great field vision and pinpoint accuracy, he's essentially a clone of McCarron.
He has all the attributes to be a star in Alabama's offense, but just what will Alabama's offense look like?
New offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin was brought in to spice things up a bit. While Bateman might have been a fit for the old scheme, he may not be the best fit depending on how creative Saban lets Kiffin get with the offense.
This is Bateman's window.
Coker wouldn't be coming in unless the coaching staff legitimately felt he had a chance to legitimately win the job, and if he nails it down, he could own it for two seasons.
Would Bateman really want to sit around two more seasons as a backup knowing that hot-shot, pro-style quarterback Cornwell—the No. 3 pro-style prospect in the class of 2014—is in essentially the same boat?
There's no easy way to answer that, but considering Cornwell could redshirt this year and create a year of separation between himself and Bateman without putting his job in jeopardy down the line, it's unlikely that there will be too much separation between the two if neither beats out Coker or any of the other competitors this offseason.
Does he really want to go through the same old song and dance again?
The spring quarterback battle at Alabama is the opening act for the big show, which will be when Coker joins the battle in fall camp. Without Coker and with Cornwell still learning the ropes and coming off of a knee injury, Bateman needs to be the No. 1 guy on the current depth chart exiting spring.
If he's not, he might not get another chance.
Recruiting rankings via 247Sports.