Why Alabama Quarterback Battle Won't Be Over Before the Beginning of 2014 Season

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Why Alabama Quarterback Battle Won't Be Over Before the Beginning of 2014 Season
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While quarterback battles in Aggieland and on Rocky Top have come to a conclusion, the most high-profile one in the SEC continues to burn white hot.

Senior Blake Sims and Florida State transfer Jacob Coker are still vying to become AJ McCarron's replacement as the quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide, and there doesn't appear to be an end in sight.

Head coach Nick Saban hasn't provided stats following either scrimmage during fall camp, and according to AL.com beat writers Andrew Gribble and Michael Casagrande, Sims may actually have an edge over Coker—a guy who reportedly pushed eventual Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston for the top spot on Florida State's depth chart in 2013.

USA TODAY Sports
Alabama QB Blake Sims

Surprised?

Maybe a little bit.

Coker wouldn't be in Tuscaloosa unless Saban and new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin expected him to win the job, and the hype surrounding this kid has elevated him to near-superhero status before ever taking a meaningful snap in Tuscaloosa.

Butch Dill/Associated Press
Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin

"Physically, he's just so gifted," ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit said. "He's been around now for a number of years, and even though he hasn't been getting a ton of reps at Florida State, but he's been around some pretty good stuff."

But the odd set of circumstances with Coker still learning the offense on the fly, coupled with Alabama's early-season schedule, allows the coaching staff to let the battle wage a little longer than others around the country.

"The big thing that none of us know about him is how he's going to react when he gets out there and faces some adversity," Herbstreit said. "Is he going to be able to check into good plays and check out of bad plays? Is he going to be able to recognize coverages? Recognize fronts? Avoiding disastrous plays is a big part of it."

Brynn Anderson/Associated Press
Alabama QBs Blake Sims (6), Cooper Bateman (18) and Jacob Coker (14)

It will last into the season, just as the fight to win the job did for McCarron, who didn't triumph over Phillip Sims in 2011 until Week 2 on the road at Penn State.

Luckily for Saban, the staff and the quarterbacks, Alabama's schedule lends itself to a similar situation unfolding again in 2014.

Sure, when Alabama signed on to play West Virginia in the 2014 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, the Mountaineers were coming off of a 70-33 thrashing of Clemson in the Orange Bowl. But head coach Dana Holgorsen's crew has lost 14 of its last 20 games and is a far cry from the team that was routinely contending for BCS games.

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Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and head coach Nick Saban

After that, Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss will provide a nice tuneup for the Tide before the vaunted Florida defense rolls into town on Sept. 20.

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"It's smart if there is any doubt to get both of those guys out there and get them game reps," Herbstreit said. "You'd think with defense and special teams alone they'd be able to win those games by running the football. We don't have preseason in college football, so the only way you really find out about your quarterbacks is to play them when they're in front of 80,000 or 90,000 people on national TV."

Coker was brought in to be the guy, and while it's unfair to Sims—a senior—that a newcomer gets the benefit of the doubt, that's the bed the coaching staff made for itself. For Saban and Kiffin, sleeping in it shouldn't be an issue.

Whoever emerges at the top spot on the quarterback depth chart, he'll have a solid running game to fall back on and weapons at receiver all over the place.

If it takes a few auditions in real games for one to step up, so be it. Considering the circumstances and the schedule, that might actually be an advantage for Alabama.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. 


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