Alabama has not had a quarterback other than A.J. McCaron under center in four years, and after this past weekend’s spring game, who will succeed him this coming season is still in question. Blake Sims was the frontrunner to take the reins in Tuscaloosa after backing up McCaron last year, but the senior produced lukewarm results in the Crimson Tide’s spring game Saturday, completing just 13-of-30 for 178 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions.
In Sims’ defense, however, head coach Nick Saban admitted to using a scaled-down version of the playbook, which running back T.J. Yeldon playing in only about ten percent of Alabama’s plays. Sims was impressive in the Tide’s first two spring scrimmages, completing 40 of 62 for 455 yards in the previous two games combined. Saban dismissed Sims’ performance as an off day, like when a baseball pitcher is out of rhythm.
“I thought the game speeded up a little bit today and [Sims] tried to speed up with it instead of trying to stay in his rhythm,” Saban said. “It‘s like a baseball pitcher, a little bit, trying to throw the ball a little bit harder and then can’t throw a strike. Hopefully that’s an experience on his part.”
Freshman Copper Bateman, a four-star recruit out of Cottonwood High School in Utah, started at quarterback for the White team and showed a couple flashes of brilliance, including a 34-yard pass to freshman wide receiver Robert Foster and a 32-yard touchdown pass to freshman wideout ArDarius Stewart late in the game. Bateman also finished with underwhelming numbers, though, connecting on 11-of-24 for 156 yards and one touchdown. He was also sacked three times. Sophomore Alec Morris out of Allen, Texas took some snaps for the white team, but did little in the way of passing, throwing three times for just 9 yards and one interception and was far more effective as a punter, kicking 15 times for a 38.4 yard average.
Freshmen Parker McLeod, an early Alabama enrollee out of Walton High School in Marietta, Georgia, and David Cornwell, an Elite 11 quarterback out of Norman, Oklahoma, both struggled in limited action. McLeod’s first passing attempt was picked off and Cornwell fumbled away his first snap.
All signs seem to indicate that the quarterback duel in Tuscaloosa will come down to just two men; Sims and Florida State transfer Jacob Coker, who backed up Jameis Winston last season, and is slated to enroll at Alabama in May. A 6-5 redshirt junior, Coker completed 18 of 30 passes for 250 yards in light mop-up duty with the Seminoles last year, but he is said to possess a next-level arm to go along with his NFL body. The term game manager has been used to describe Coker, but he has also been called a guy than can make every throw in the book. And if Saban’s recent comments on Coker are any indication, he is extremely high on Coker’s talent.
Alabama is very much looking forward to Jacob coming in,” Saban said. “He’s a guy we coveted in high school and thought he was a very, very good player.”
Commentary by Rick Sarlat