Alabama Football: Lane Kiffin Has to Be Thinking Jacob Coker After Spring Game

Christopher Walsh@@WritingWalshCollege Football National ColumnistApril 19, 2014

USA Today

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.The job wasn’t won by anyone, nor was it lost, but Saturday’s low-scoring A-Day game didn’t exactly help Blake Sims in his quest to become the starting quarterback at the University of Alabama.

Playing for the "Crimson" team with the offensive starters, Sims was 13-of-30 passing for 178 yards, with two interceptions and a touchdown. With the defense clearly outshining the inconsistent offense on both sides, the "White" team pulled out a 17-14 victory.

“Nobody ever has a bad spring game, let’s start with that,” head coach Nick Saban said.

“Everybody needs to understand that in games like today we really limit what we do on offense, we really limit what we do on defense, and we really don’t try to feature players. That may be a little bit of a disadvantage to our players. Blake Sims did some things at quarterback that we really don’t feature.”

Until sophomore wide receiver Chris Black notched a last-minute 55-yard touchdown, the only scoring play the senior quarterback was involved with was when defensive lineman D.J. Pettway returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter.

With Jacob Coker, who will transfer after graduating from Florida State next month, looking on, Sims’ longest possession was just five plays, while redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman led drives of 14, 10 and eight plays for the White team against the second-unit defense.

Still, neither side was able to score in the first half when both teams had 116 total yards.

TUSCALOOSA, AL - APRIL 19:  Chris Black #5 of the Crimson team runs for yards against the White team during the University of Alabama A-Day spring game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on April 19, 2014 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

“I think he was pressing a little bit,” Black said about Sims. “Throughout the spring he’s done a pretty good job of blocking all that stuff out, other people’s expectations out. Today was not one of our best days.”

Sims went 40-of-62 (64.5 completion percentage) with 455 passing yards and five touchdowns during the first two spring scrimmages, which were closed to reporters. Alabama didn’t issue interception totals.

On Saturday, Sims connected on just one of his first six attempts, and he completed 45.8 percent of his passes.

Saban, who reiterated that the quarterback competition will last through the summer and go into the fall, compared his performance to a baseball pitcher trying so hard that he can’t throw a strike.

“Blake had a really good spring, and he did a really good job in the scrimmages,” he said. “I thought he was trying…like the game speeded up a little bit on him and he tried to speed up with it instead of staying in his rhythm.” 

Part of that had to do with Alabama’s defense, which looked like it’s ready to reclaim its spot among the best in college football. With junior Reggie Ragland leading everyone with 10 tackles, and the defensive-line reserves having a distinct advantage over their offensive counterparts, the two sides combined to notch 19 tackles for a loss, seven sacks and four interceptions.

“They’re for real,” senior linebacker Trey DePriest said about the defensive line.

But rightly or wrongly, most of the talk afterward was about Sims and not some of the other sidebars like:

Apr 19, 2014; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman D.J. Pettway (57) returns an interception for a touchdown during the A-Day game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

The announced attendance of 73,506 was the smallest since Saban arrived in 2007.

 Yeldon, who had 11 carries for 95 yards, became the first player in Alabama history to win the Dixie Howell Memorial Award as A-Day MVP for a third time. The Dwight Stephenson Lineman of the Game Award was shared by Pettway and Allen.

Yeldon estimated that new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin used only about 10 percent of the playbook, with wide receiver Amari Cooper finishing with only three receptions and sophomore tight end O.J. Howard never having a ball thrown his way.

—Early enrollee Cam Robinson started at left tackle, but Saban called him a work in progress and said that he blocked the wrong man on the intercepted screen pass.

So while it may not have been a stellar game, and Sims didn't do anything to raise the bar any higher before Coker arrives, it concluded a good spring for the Crimson Tide.

“I’m very encouraged by the team that we have, and I’m encouraged by the attitude that we have on the team,” Saban said. “I am certainly looking forward to working with this group and us improving over the summer and getting a great start to the season next year when we start fall camp.”

Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

Follow @CrimsonWalsh


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