Alabama Football: How New Practice Format Will Impact QB Competition

Marc TorrenceAlabama Lead WriterAugust 14, 2014

USA Today

Alabama coach Nick Saban has been relatively mum on his quarterback competition so far in fall camp.

It's largely been generalizations about both players and how he'll play the best guy for the job. But otherwise, he's been quiet on specifics regarding Blake Sims and Jacob Coker.

On Wednesday, he offered a small bit of insight into the quarterback battle.

SportsCenter's Bus Blitz was in Tuscaloosa on Wednesday, and it got some extra access to Saban and practice. In a live hit after the first of two practices Tuesday, Saban revealed a new wrinkle he's added into the competition.

"We started out sort of splitting time with guys. Maybe one guy takes one period, the other guys takes the other period," Saban said. "But what we started doing here this week is, for a practice, a guy is the starter, the other guy is the backup. Then they take turns.

"So I think it gives a guy a better chance to show his leadership, show how he can affect other people and basically show how he can go out there and consistently execute and do the job for us. That's sort of what we're doing. So today, it was Blake's turn; tonight, it will be Jacob's turn."

Saban's new strategy will allow him to get a closer look at each player and how he'll operate the system over a long period of time rather than just a few reps here and there. It also has some advantages and disadvantages for each guy.

Let's take a closer look.


Running the system

This new style gives both quarterbacks a chance to run the offense for extended periods of time rather than alternating in short bursts.

Oct 5, 2013; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Blake Sims (6) drops back to pass against the Georgia State Panthers during the second quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

There is a lot of benefit in playing like this.

A football game transpires over the course of 60 minutes; it ebbs and flows and doesn't always go according to plan. Practice is a much more controlled environment, with each repetition going under the microscope.

Giving the quarterbacks extended time running the offense can give coaches a better feel for how a guy would respond during those ups and downs during a game.

This probably gives Sims an advantage. His knowledge of the system, the offense and the style of play Saban is looking for should allow him to operate more comfortably and react appropriately to certain situations.

We saw him in a similar situation last season.

In a glorified scrimmage last year against Georgia State, then-starter AJ McCarron was pulled toward the end of the second quarter, and Sims was allowed to operate the rest of the game as if he was the No. 1 quarterback.

He ended the day 14-of-18 passing with 130 yards and a touchdown.

"Blake has made a significant improvement as a quarterback," Saban said at the time. "This was probably the first time that he's really played where we really allowed him to run the offense. We put him in there today, and I said, 'Look, I don't want any quarterback runs. He needs to run the offense just like he has to play.'"


Chemistry with teammates

Photo courtesy UA Athletics

The other benefit to this new way of looking at the quarterback is that it allows each guy to develop chemistry with his teammates over an extended period of time.

The advantage here is probably to Coker, who's only been enrolled since May and is essentially playing catch-up with Sims in that regard.

"I think that's a dynamic that's probably a difficult management for Jacob because everybody loves Blake Sims," Saban said Tuesday on SportsCenter. "He's a great teammate. He's a hard worker, and he'll do anything for the team. He'll play on special teams, he'll go play running back if we ask him.”

But Coker now has an opportunity to work with his teammates over a long period of time. He can learn how they'll respond to adversity or to certain situations, something that might be harder to do switching in and out previously during practice.

"Jake is a great personality, and I think the players really like him," Saban said. "But to develop friendships and relationships, I think, is really important in terms of team chemistry and a guy that's in a leadership position. And that takes a little bit of time. But I think the first step of it is the players have to respect him and they have to like him, and I think we're off to a good start with Jake in that regard."


Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats come from cfbstats. All recruiting information comes from 247Sports.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.