Alabama head coach Nick Saban stepped out of his comfort zone a bit this offseason, luring in Florida State backup quarterback Jacob Coker to Tuscaloosa as a graduate transfer.
It appears that may be the start of a trend rather than the exception to the rule.
According to 247Sports, former Clemson and current East Mississippi Community College quarterback Chad Kelly visited the Crimson Tide over the weekend along with several other teammates.
That is quite the departure for Alabama, which had always groomed all of its other starting quarterbacks beginning in their freshman season during the Saban era.
Kelly was a 4-star prospect in the class of 2012 and was rated as the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback in the country in the 247Sports composite, but he was dismissed from the Clemson program this spring for conduct detrimental to the team.
He initially had offers from around the country, including Alabama, but chose to head to Clemson, where he spent two years as a backup. He'll play for East Mississippi this year and will be a member of the class of 2015.
He completed 10-of-17 passes for 58 yards last season for the Tigers, adding 117 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Just how interested is Alabama? Pretty interested, according to ESPN.com's Sam Khan, Jr. (via: @MASSonJOX on WJOX 94.5 in Birmingham).
Khan Jr: "Alabama recruited Chad Kelly when he came out of high school, anytime you bring a QB in for a visit there is interest"— Matt and Scot (@MASSonJOX) June 4, 2014
So what does this say about Alabama's current quarterback situation?
It's clear that Coker is going to be the guy this year, especially after senior Blake Sims—his primary competitor for the job—struggled in the spring game, completing just 13 of 30 passes for 178 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, per RollTide.com.
If Coker shines as a junior, it's possible that he jumps to the NFL next year. That would open the door for Kelly to contend for the starting job immediately if he signs with the Tide.
Kelly simply visiting Alabama—and Alabama simply entertaining the idea of signing him—indicates that the Tide isn't as sold on redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman as they were when they signed the former 4-star prospect from Salt Lake City in 2013.
Bateman was rated as the fourth-best pro-style quarterback that year, but he fell behind Sims in the signal-caller pecking order this spring. He completed 11 of 24 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown operating with the second team in Alabama's spring game.
Despite the arrival of Coker, that depth chart is still fluid, according to Saban, per Andrew Gribble of AL.com.
"Cooper Bateman is still in the competition," Saban said in May. "He did a pretty good job in the A-Day game for a young player. So there's a lot of competition at the position."
The uncertainty with Sims and Bateman is a big reason why Coker is currently on campus. Even though this year's competition is still "ongoing," it doesn't appear Alabama is confident that will change any time soon.
I touched upon Alabama's quarterback battle before spring practice, writing that the window for Bateman to win the job is as open as it every will be—despite the fact that he's only a redshirt freshman. Kelly simply being considered by Saban and first-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is even more evidence that Bateman's window is closing.
Why Kelly and not true freshman early enrollee David Cornwell?
Cornwell is still coming off of ACL injury, and the coaching staff will need to see much more of a sample size from the former 4-star pro-style prospect before judging if he's the quarterback of the future.
It will be interesting to see how the courtship between Alabama and Chad Kelly progresses. If the Tide pushes hard, it will speak volumes on the status of the younger quarterbacks on the roster—particularly Bateman.
* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com.
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