As the Alabama Crimson Tide look to return to the championship spotlight this season, they should end the charade of a quarterback controversy and trust Jacob Coker with regular snaps from the get-go.
The Florida State transfer is the clear superior talent who will take the reins under Nick Saban's offense before the season ends. Yet Coker will have to work longer before winning the job outright. According to CBS Sports' Jeremy Fowler, fifth-year senior Blake Sims is the top candidate to start, although the junior will receive snaps as well.
Alabama's early-week plan is to play two quarterbacks on Saturday against West Virginia , with fifth-year senior Blake Sims the current favorite to start, CBSSports.com has learned.
Touted Florida State transfer Jacob Coker will play in the Georgia Dome, but he failed to create significant separation in Bama's quarterback race, and is expected to come off the bench.
Such a decision likely boils down to experience and familiarity. Sims spent the last three years sitting behind former signal-caller A.J. McCarron. He rarely played, but he made a strong showing for himself during a rout over overmatched Georgia Tech, completing 14 of 18 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown.
While Coker is learning the ropes, Sims knows Saban's system well. The Tuscaloosa News' Aaron Suttles also noted that Sims has support throughout the squad.
One thing I can say for certain regarding the Alabama quarterback competition. Blake Sims' teammates genuinely like the guy. A lot.— Aaron Suttles (@AaronSuttles) August 27, 2014
Those factors make it easy to defer to Sims, even if just for the first few games. Coming off a 4-8 season, West Virginia exists this weekend with the sole purpose of taking a beating from the Crimson Tide. Such is often the ugly nature of college football.
The No. 2 Crimson Tide should win games either way, but Coker puts the better product on the field. He could have started at most schools last season, but he found himself stuck behind eventual Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. According to USA Today's Paul Myerberg, Florida State's quarterback position was far from an open-and-shut case last season.
Coker gave Winston a legitimate challenge for the job this past offseason. A major talent. FSU staff thought very highly of his skills.— Paul Myerberg (@PaulMyerberg) January 26, 2014
He didn't win the job, but the 6'5", 230-pound passer certainly opened some eyes at FSU. Last January, in a story published on CBS Sports the day after Winston led the Seminoles to a BCS National Championship, quarterback coach Ricky Sanders compared Coker's arm favorably to his champion leader.
"Coker's arm is kind of at a different level," Sanders told Bruce Feldman. "Jameis has a very special arm, and this isn't any knock against Jameis, but Jake's probably the best I've seen in 25 years at throwing it."
Former Florida State running back Devonta Freeman, who will now suit up for the Atlanta Falcons, also sung Coker's praises to Bleacher Report's Ray Glier.
I will not be surprised if Coke-boy is in the middle of the Heisman thing before the season is over. He’s my guy, will talk about Coke-boy all day. If Jameis Winston is a first-round pick of the NFL, then Jake is a first-round pick. If they came out next year, they would be the top two quarterbacks. I tell you no lie.
With Lane Kiffin joining the Crimson Tide to call plays, Simms sees his familiarity advantage dissipate. Last year's playbook has undoubtedly experienced serious renovation, and they'd be remiss not to consider what they could achieve with Coker slinging the ball around.
Who should be Alabama's starting quarterback this season?
Coker is the obvious future, so why waste time during the fall when he could compile critical reps that will serve him well later? Saban can bide his time with a two-quarterback approach, but that's merely a stalling tactic that could create a divide while robbing everyone of clarity.
The top case for easing in Coker comes from a fictional television show, which isn't the best guideline to making important decisions. In Friday Night Lights, Matt Saracen constantly led Coach Taylor's Dillon Panthers to miraculous victories on grit and heart.
Then freshman quarterback J.D. McCoy came along with a magical arm that forced the reluctant coach to make the obvious move. Sure, the arrogant McCoy crumbled during the state championship game, but the Panthers didn't have Saban's army of 5-star recruits roaming the field.
In the real world, skill beats out seniority. Coker is ready to dazzle in Tuscaloosa now, so why keep delaying the inevitable?