TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama coach Nick Saban all but laid out his plans for his quarterbacks Thursday night during his first weekly Hey Coach radio show of the season.
"We have faith, trust and confidence in Blake Sims," Saban said, according to Andrew Gribble of al.com. "We're not going to evaluate Blake, and he doesn't have to look over his shoulder while he's playing. I think there may be some occasion where the other guy deserves an opportunity at some point in time this season to show what he can do."
Reading between the lines, that looks pretty much like Sims is the starter, for now, while Florida State transfer Jake Coker will continue to be brought along and up to speed.
A few minutes later, CBSSports.com's Jeremy Fowler said that "barring any unexpected last-minute changes," Sims will start, but that Coker "is expected to play."
Fowler's report made waves through college football Twitter last night as everyone watched the late-night games. But it shouldn't come as any surprise, since that's very much in line with what Saban has said all throughout fall camp, most recently on that Thursday radio show.
There's been no indication whatsoever that Coker was going to start this game.
Sims' teammates love him, having known him for going on five years now. He's the epitome of a "program guy." Sims has changed positions a couple of times without complaint and has always been a helping hand and welcoming presence, even though he hasn't been a starter during his career.
He also has a much better understanding of the offense in terms of what Saban expects from a quarterback. At this point in the game, the coaches simply trust him more, a huge factor for Saban and his staff when deciding who goes out under center.
"Blake has a lot more familiarity with the system, having been here longer," Saban said Monday. "I think he's more comfortable in doing the things that we do and has done a really good job. Has played really, really well in this fall camp, has played well in the scrimmages. The team has had a good rhythm when he's in there at quarterback.
"Jacob is obviously the newer guy of the two, who doesn't have the same knowledge and experience. I think we're just trying to get him more and more familiar so that he plays with the rhythm that we need to play with offensively."
That's not to say that Coker is out of this, by any means. He just isn't quite where the coaches want him to be from a trust and confidence standpoint. The coaches know what they have in Sims. He's a proven commodity while Coker gets assimilated into the system.
"Starter" for this game is a fairly meaningless term, anyway. Yes, he'll take the first snap, but that doesn't necessarily mean that whoever it is has been declared the winner of the quarterback competition, or even will play 100 percent of the snaps.
Both guys will likely play, and this thing is far from over.
Here are some other notes before the Chick-fil-A Kickoff.
Alabama fans should get plenty of opportunities to see members of the Crimson Tide's No. 1 2014 recruiting class (per 247Sports) on the field Saturday. Alabama listed 16 players from that group on its official depth chart, including 14 true freshmen.
Several of those will play key roles.
Most notably, 5-star recruit Cam Robinson, the No. 4 overall player in that 2014 class, is expected to start at left tackle. The other starting freshman is JK Scott, who has handled punting duties during fall camp and could make a cameo at kicker if called upon.
Otherwise, Josh Frazier, Da'Shawn Hand and Rashaan Evans provide depth in Alabama's front seven, and those three could rotate in at some point up front. Cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Tony Brown, both 5-star recruits, could be called upon in the secondary, with Brown the early favorite since he enrolled in the spring.
Saban cautioned, though, against expecting any of them to light the world on fire from Day 1. This age of recruiting coverage, combined with the national exposure of college football, has placed tremendous pressure on the shoulders of 18- and 19-year-olds to perform right away, when in reality their full development as a college player takes a couple of years.
"We wouldn't put guys in the game if they weren't ready to be in there," Saban said. "We also don't expect them to play perfect."
Saban's country roads
Nick Saban isn't the least bit shy of his upbringing. He frequently cites his West Virginia roots and working at his dad's gas station as the foundation for his mentality and coaching philosophy that has brought him so much success.
It also means that his childhood college team growing up is the one his Crimson Tide will face Saturday.
"That was the biggest thing going when I was a kid, to go to Mountaineer Field and watch West Virginia play. That was like the highlight of my year," Saban said.
"I still have great memories of home and great memories of the people and relationships that I have at home. I've always kind of been a Mountaineer fan. I remember as a kid sitting in the old Mountaineer Fieldhouse. I used to sit in the upper deck with my feet hanging over the deck looking in between the rails watching Jerry West play. I remember that. I was probably only seven, eight, nine years old or something, but I remember that."
Saban still has plenty of relationships from those days, including U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, whom Saban nominated for his Ice Bucket Challenge.
TideSports.com's Tommy Deas traveled to Saban's hometown to report on a piece that is well worth your time and provides excellent insight into his childhood and what made him the way he is today.
"You don't forget stuff like that," Saban said. "But now I'm Alabama's coach. I'm an Alabama fan. We don't really have to be concerned about any of that. We want to do what's best for our team and the relationships that we have here.
"But we also respect their traditions and the relationships that we've developed through the years in West Virginia."
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