After a week or so of practice, the inquiring minds of Bama fans want to know and NEED to know how the QB situation is going to shake out before the season opener against West Virginia. Well, worry not my friends as I have read the tea leaves, peered into the old crystal (foot) ball and have even consulted with the ghost of Jimmy the Greek (Ouija boards are so wild) to figure out who the starting QB will be. Here’s the way I think things stand with two scrimmages left before the season begins….
Everyone’s favorite Bama QB, Blake Sims, comes into the season as a fifth year senior QB who has earned Nick Saban’s trust over the last couple of years as the primary backup to AJ McCarron. This dude has bided his time and toiled away as a backup, trying to make the most of every practice and game reps that he received. And while most Bama fans (myself included) picture Sims as a running back playing QB, it’s important to note that when Blake Sims looks in the mirror, he simply sees a QB. During the summer, while the entire state was abuzz with the Jacob Coker tracker, Sims was in Florida working with QB guru Ken Mastrole to improve his balance, vision and release. This, along with the five years of time he’s spent on campus, has earned the trust and respect of his teammates.
Why do I tell you all of this? Well, for those of you who, like me, dismissed Sims’ chances of being the starter at some point during his woeful A-Day performance, you need to realize that Sims is still very much a viable candidate to win the job. In fact, Nick Saban has taken every opportunity after practice to reaffirm that Sims is in the lead of this competition. But, we’ve all seen him play so how is this possible?????
In studying every throw that Coker made last season, you can quickly and easily see that he’s the most physically gifted QB on the Alabama roster (and it isn’t close). Big body. Big arm. Runs extremely well. Coker most certainly looks the part of a big time QB.
However, when you watch the video of every throw he made last year, you’ll see some big times throws but you’ll also see that Coker often holds the ball waaaay too long. He seems to get lost in his progressions and, after his first or second read he often tucks and runs. Worst of all, throwing the ball away simply doesn’t seem to be in Coker’s DNA. He’d rather absorb a sack or throw the ball into danger as opposed to simply flinging it out-of-bounds. These are all things that can certainly be improved upon with the right QB coach (a story for another day) but I’m not certain they can be improved by August 30th.
Meanwhile, Sims’ knowledge of the offense (sorry folks but Lane Kiffin is still running the same playbook that’s been in existence since Saban arrived – he’ll tweak a few things but he isn’t overhauling anything) allows him to make quicker and more decisive reads. While he won’t wow you with a big arm, he can zip it to stationary targets (curls, comebacks, quick hitches) with surprising velocity. Downfield throws towards moving targets (flys, posts, corner routes, deep ins, etc) have always been his Achilles heel and with Alabama’s ridiculous cupboard full of talented WRs that’s why the hope has been that Coker wins the job. Coker’s arm certainly plays much better to the fleet-footed corps of Bama receivers.
I believe when you sit down to watch Alabama take on West Virginia, you’ll see the QB battle play out in the exact same fashion that AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims battled it out a few years ago. Both Coker and Sims will be given equal opportunities and reps during wins over WVU, Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss. At some point during those three games a leader will emerge and he will be your 2014 starting QB. Coker’s skill set would seem to make the best use of the wide receivers but until he learns to make quicker reads and throw the ball away when necessary then the staff will continue to trust Sims as the starter…
*Note: Jimmy the Greek just IM’d me (who knew he was so technologically savvy?) and told me that the upcoming scrimmages could push this in one direction or the other but he also told me not to expect it to. Even if Coker outperforms Sims over the next three weeks, Sims’ teammates want to see him be given a chance to lead the team. And even if Sims outperforms Coker, the staff knows Coker gives them a more versatile offense so he will continue to get opportunities.