NELL REDMOND/Associated Press
Transfer Jacob Coker is the favorite to emerge as Alabama's next starting QB.
A.J. McCarron was one of the most successful quarterbacks in college football history. While McCarron faced the label of “game manager”, here’s the truth: all he did was win. McCarron finished his collegiate career 36-4 with two national titles, and that record came in spite of losing his final two college games, to Auburn and to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
Alabama, Nick Saban and new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will preside over one of the nation’s most wide-open quarterback competitions this spring.
Kiffin and Saban will watch five quarterbacks compete, and that doesn’t even take into account one of the nation’s most promising transfers who won’t arrive until May.
Rising senior Blake Sims served as McCarron’s backup last season, completing 18-of-29 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns but having little opportunity to prove himself when the situation mattered.
Alabama runs a pro-style offense, and Sims has a good arm that can fit in well. But even going into his final season of college football, he is mostly an unproven commodity under the SEC’s hot lights.
Rising sophomore Alec Morris didn’t take a snap last season but has a collegiate frame, standing 6’3”, 230 pounds. Alabama fans’ longest look at him came in Alabama’s 2013 spring game, which saw him complete 10-of-18 passes for 141 yards. But he wasn’t even the Tide’s No. 3 quarterback—Luke Del Rio, who transferred to Oregon State, had that honor.
Redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman has an excellent arm: the Salt Lake City native was rated as the nation’s No. 4 pro-style quarterback in 2013, per247Sports. He is a mobile, accurate passer who can throw downfield and keep the chains moving in a number of ways.
Early enrollee David Cornwell is a 4-star recruit who is coming off right knee surgery that ended his season in October, but he is an elite quarterback rated as the nation’s No. 4 pro-style recruit, per 247Sports.com.
He stands 6’5”, 241 pounds and has excellent arm strength, giving him the ability to thrive in a pro-style offense.
In addition, redshirt freshman Parker McLeod sat last fall after picking Alabama over Louisville, Oklahoma State, Boston College and Syracuse. He stands 6’3”, 193 pounds and has a reputation as a game manager. He’ll have to do more to emerge from a crowded field of signal-callers.
That said, Alabama’s 2014 starter might not even be on campus yet.
In late January, Florida State quarterback Jacob Coker officially finalized his long-expected transfer to Alabama. With Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston on campus, Coker wasn’t going to receive meaningful snaps this fall, so he utilized an NCAA rule that allows players to transfer to a program that allows a compatible graduate program should they finish their degree in three years. He’ll have two years of eligibility remaining.
Coker stands 6’5”, 230 pounds, and should be an excellent fit. After all, Saban protégé Jimbo Fisher has modeled FSU’s program after Alabama’s, and the Crimson Tide loves pro-style quarterbacks like Coker.
In 2013, he completed 18-of-36 passes for 250 yards with no touchdowns and an interception in mop-up duty. He’ll have his chance to lead a program in Tuscaloosa, and even though he won’t arrive until May, AL.com’s Andrew Gribble calls Coker “the leader in the clubhouse.”