Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
For the nation's 17th-ranked scoring offense, replacing record-breaking quarterback AJ McCarron won't be an easy task. McCarron, a multi-year All-SEC nominee, graduates as the Crimson Tide's all-time leading passer in both a career and a season. He finished second in Heisman voting in 2013, won the Maxwell Award the same year and took his team to three national titles.
Not easy to replace, indeed.
There is a great deal of competition for the 2014 starting spot, and head coach Nick Saban is in no rush to clarify things. Breaking in a new offensive coordinator in former Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin, Saban is taking his time and letting Kiffin explore all options.
Senior Blake Sims leads the group in experience, though it's always been in a limited role. Sims has scored four touchdowns in the previous two seasons and features a more potent ground game than air attack. It's likely Saban will need the arm more than the legs and will be looking to mature a quarterback for the long term, making the underclassmen a more likely option.
True freshman David Cornwell, standing 6'5" and 241 pounds, has massive (pun intended) upside, but will likely redshirt as most Saban quarterbacks do and take time to heal from a torn ACL. Redshirt freshman Parker McLeod and redshirt sophomore Alec Morris both have potential, but the race seems to be coming down to redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman and incoming Florida State transfer Jacob Coker.
In the mold of McCarron, Bateman is a former 4-star recruit who has a powerful arm and great football intelligence. His style is a proven one, but Kiffin may eschew it in favor of something more dynamic. What Bateman will have in his favor, though, is experience through practices. Coker, a former 3-star recruit from Mobile, Ala., likely wouldn't be transferring in if Saban didn't feel he could challenge for the starting spot right away.
Though this is a tight race, the odds are best for Bateman. He fits the mold and has proven in practices he can run the offense. Regardless of his decision, Saban sure has a fun problem on his hands.