Phil G. Sears/Associated Press
Nick Saban and new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin face one of the more unenviable tasks in college football this fall: replacing A.J. McCarron. McCarron was one of the winningest quarterbacks in college football history, finishing his Alabama starting career 36-4 with a pair of national championships.
This spring, Alabama fans watched a wide-open competition that ultimately unfolded like a WWE championship ladder: Five quarterbacks competed to, ultimately, be crowned as the No. 1 contender and advance to face another title contender in the main event.
Senior Blake Sims won that half of the battle, besting four other signal-callers to emerge as the top contender following spring practice. He didn’t have a great spring game but was impressive in two other scrimmages completing 40 of 62 passes for 455 yards and five touchdowns, according to the Associated Press.
He 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.
His spring effort earned Sims the right to face off with Jacob Coker. Coker, who stands 6’5”, 230 pounds, lost a battle in preseason practice with freshman Jameis Winston last fall at Florida State and watched as Winston emerged as one of the best players in college football. He utilized the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule, which allows players to transfer with immediate eligibility if they have graduated, and he arrived at Alabama in May.
Saban said at SEC media days, per ASAP Sports, that Coker “has the opportunity to come in and compete for the position.”
Last fall, Coker completed 18 of 36 passes for 250 yards with no touchdowns and an interception in mop-up duty. Both he and Sims are pro-style quarterbacks with the ability to throw or run, which will fit in well in Kiffin’s offense.
Also, with a deep offense led by junior tailback T.J. Yeldon and junior wideout Amari Cooper, the pressure won’t all be on the new guy’s shoulders.
However, the new guy must adjust quickly, Saban said.
Decision making and judgment is a critical factor, accuracy with the ball is a critical factor, and leadership is a critical factor. Two out of three of those things are a little bit innate in terms of a guy understanding a system, feeling confident in application of that system so they can make good choices and decisions, can lead, can be accurate, to enhance the players around him.
That's the challenge with a young quarterback. How long is it going to take that guy to go through that process? How long is it going to take him to where he can do those things effectively and gain the respect of his teammates and have an effect on them so that you play well together as a unit? I think that's the biggest challenge.