Despite media efforts, Bama’s QB “controversy” is anything but

The QB situation at Alabama; what does it mean at this point?
(An analysis by The Conduit)

First things first, Blake Sims is the starting quarterback at Alabama.
You wouldn’t know it by looking at the media. Most outlets seem to think it’s a crisis of biblical proportions in Tuscaloosa, the most epic controversy of the season so far, spearheaded by a lost offensive identity under Alabama’s new offensive coordinator, the ever-controversial Lane Kiffin.

I digress. Blake Sims is the starting quarterback at Alabama. It hasn’t been officially announced yet and likely won’t be until Florida parks its bus in Tuscaloosa, but there it is. Jacob Coker is a great talent, as are Cooper Bateman and David Cornwell. Alabama may have more depth at quarterback than I can ever remember, but Saban doesn’t run a two-quarterback scheme, and for 2014 Blake Sims is the starting QB.

The alleged battle between Jacob Coker and Blake Sims has been anything but. For starters, Blake Sims has had good relationships with the entire football team and, believe it or not, that includes Jacob Coker. They’re friends. They’re teammates. The “controversy” hasn’t seemed to affect either one of them personally, at least not during game time or from anything I’ve heard off the field. Instead of being a destructive, dramatic battle for glory, it’s been a competitive learning experience for everyone involved, not limited to the quarterbacks themselves.

That’s the opposite of what’s happening right now in Clemson. If you want a quarterback controversy, look no further.

Clemson lost to a very good Georgia team in Athens in week one. A senior QB, Stoudt, was (and still is) the starting QB. A brand new 5-star QB, Watson, played in the same game. Both scored touchdowns. Both looked good, albeit the younger, less-experienced QB seemed to have more natural talent. Sound familiar, Alabama fans?

While Clemson fans traditionally respond poorly to any loss, it’s absurd when a head coach has to address what the fans want, which is exactly what Dabo Swinney had to do at a recent media event, even after the smashing 73-3 win over SC State. “KEEP CALM AND START WATSON” t-shirts have flooded the upstate in South Carolina. I’m sure there are plenty of fans who are nervous about Sims winning the job over Coker, but Alabama doesn’t have an internal culture war over it regardless.

Second, the Alabama quarterbacks have learned from each other in an understated benefit.
Lane Kiffin’s offensive playbook hasn’t redefined Alabama’s offense, albeit we’ve only seen a small part of it so far, but both quarterbacks have had to learn it and adjust to it. Having Kiffin on the sideline for the second week in a row to directly communicate with the QB’s is just as understated. Frankly, I think it’s genius. Coker has a faster arm that can throw further, but his throws were often misplaced, either by misjudgment or errors in technique. He made some critical clock management errors and mental mistakes, albeit those are fixable with the right coaching (Roll Tide).

Even balls that were on the mark were difficult to catch; I didn’t expect Cooper to drop as many accurate passes as he did last Saturday, but they were thrown at a different speed than Sims. Remember, it’s not simply the QB that has to adjust…it’s the TE’s, WR’s, the o-line, and even the way the plays are called from the sidelines. All of those things are working better with Sims than with Coker. Coker will get better, just as Sims has since we saw him play as McCarron’s backup, but while it might appear time isn’t on Coker’s side, it’s still a best-case scenario. It’s hard to imagine how differently Blake Sims would be now without the in-game experience he got in 2013 as McCarron’s backup, but it’s impossible to accept he’d be better today without it. That’s what Coker’s getting now, and we’ll take as much as he can get.

Third, depth is everything.
When it comes to talent, for the past several years Alabama has had more depth than the Mariana Trench…just not at quarterback.

Until now, that is.

For all the talk the past month over Alabama’s quarterback controversy, it’s only going to be worse in 2015 and 2016. Cornwell, Bateman, they also came to Alabama to compete. Blake Barnett is a prototypical superstar QB, the #1 of his kind in his graduating class, and somehow (i.e., Lane Kiffin) Alabama got him to commit from California.

Don’t start with the “but Barnett was an Oregon commit and he’ll decommit from Alabama too” argument. It might be right and Barnett might sign elsewhere (although I strongly doubt it), but the point is that Alabama does have real QB depth and that’s going to be a bigger controversy in the future. AJ McCarron was holding snaps for kicks virtually his entire career, but this year we’ve already seen QB’s behind both Sims and Coker on the depth chart taking snaps. First-world problems, and not a cornerback in sight on the QB depth chart.

Again, I digress; all that talent means a certain level of attrition. Somebody is going to leave Alabama to start at QB somewhere else after 2014. There’s the controversy, and we might even see some of it before the end of 2014. Alabama will deal with that when the time comes, but for now, the Crimson Tide essentially gets to train Coker to be the backup QB most teams simply don’t have.

Case in point, when Johnny Manziel got hurt in 2013 there sure wasn’t a lot of talk about Joeckel and Hill competing for the position or helping lead the Aggies to success, which neither one was able to do. Yet in week one of the 2014 season against South Carolina, Kenny Hill became TAMU’s salvation, an immediate Heisman candidate and de facto social media darling. Yay. Memories in college football are short, and having a quarterback with legitimate talent and in-game experience can be a critical factor in the event of injury. Blake Sims by his very nature will put himself at risk for injury more than most quarterbacks, and having Coker ready to play isn’t controversial; it’s intelligent.

With all that said, I don’t know what Alabama will do the rest of 2014. Sims will almost certainly be the QB, barring injury, but I’m not sure yet if Alabama will be championship-caliber every weekend.

What I think is much more likely is that both 2015 and 2016 will have much more significant “controversy” at QB, and Alabama will also be a more dominant competitor in those seasons, if not completely unstoppable. This season might surprise everyone, but the future from a depth and positional recruiting standpoint has a higher ceiling, and that absolutely includes Jacob Coker.

21 Comments

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  1. 1
    Hoopie

    I agree that the media amplifies any tidbit they can grasp. Remember Pete Thamel and the lnane charges he levelled at Aurburn?

    Nick has the Qb thing under control. He is getting Sims ready for SEC play and trying to gain experience for Stoker so that he can be a more credible backup.

    Of course the ignorant Bammers that call into Finebaum everyday arguing about who should be the QB and even injecting race into the discussion just fuel the media more. In a sense ….and as usual ….you Bammers are your own worst enemies.

    • 2
      Crimsonite

      Sure we are you retarded piece of rat shit. We hsve just shot ourselves in the fuking foot for over a hundred years in spite of being the grestest program of alk time. And we’ve doublely fuked it up to the tune of 75-9 since the ’06 Independence Bowl. In fact we should just go out behind the barn and shoot ourselves. Oh wait! It’s you dumbasses who are the BARNturds. It’s you dumbasses who have never done anything significant, except an occasional UPSET of Bama. I regress. Here you go you pathetic bastards, I’ll lend you my pistol. ROTFLMMFAO!

  2. 3
    finebammer

    blake has done his time and paid his dues. he SHOULD BE the starter. this should come as a shock to no one.

    the new guy should not come in and play the entrenched QB even and be handed the job. coker had to come in a establish himself as a better player to WIN the position. he didn’t do that.

    we should be worried about who’s starting in our secondary over who the QB is.

  3. 4
    Crimsonite

    You are absolutely WRONG! Saban ran two QB’s at LSU. Saban will do whatever is necessary to win now and next year too. So that means we will have a 2 QB team. Now I doubt that he will ever alternate them series for series, no. But if we are in control (and I don’t mean 40-0 either) he will alternate them quarter by quarter. He will also not hesitate to put Cocer in if someone has plugged the short game and Sims can’t exploit the long ball. You see we have a small malfunction. With Sims and Coker splitting time there will be no reps for Morris or Bateman. So next year they will both be green, green, green. He has to get Coker enough quality time to make sure he can win for us next year. So, because Sims will never be an AJ or a Cam, and Coker with enough reps possibly could be, we will see Coker almost as much as Sims. I think that is what is planned unless something dramatic changes those plans.

    • 5
      nope

      I said doesn’t, not didn’t. Remember, that was an LSU team, a team with Will Muschamp and Jimbo Fisher as coordinators, no less.

      Saban will do whatever gives Alabama the highest chance for success, you’re absolutely right about that. For Saban, that means ball control and game management above all else.

      That means getting Alabama’s backup QB as much playing time as possible in case of injury, if nothing else.

      But make no mistake—-Coker is going to have to compete for the 2015 job, too.

      You mentioned Sims will never be an AJ McCarron. So far though he seems to be exactly that.

      We all thought Sims was a run-and-gun style QB, but truth be told, he hasn’t run a lot, and AJ McCarron ran the ball a few times for first downs and touchdowns. Sims isn’t forcing plays with his legs but taking opportunities when they develop. Sims has been excellent throwing to the edge, his fade on the screen looked picture perfect, and he manages control of the game well enough so far. I think that sounds like McCarron, but, more to the point, I think it sounds like what Saban tries most to get out of his QB’s at Alabama.

    • 8
      nope

      @peachy

      You are getting less and less compelling with your responses.

      I’m sure when Alabama loses a game we’ll hear from you a lot more, little brother.

      And Alabama will likely lose a game or two this season. As a matter of fact, most teams lose at least one game. Shocking.

      However, the panic and screaming seems to come from everyone else when Alabama has success, not the other way around. Don’t forget, Alabama held eight opponents to less than 200 yards in a single season, two of them under 100 yards (including in the national title game) and beat most teams by nearly 40 points, but when Alabama was declared the national champion that very same season, people still screamed enough to change the entire championship format of college football .

      I don’t know how you have nothing to say on the QB issue itself; maybe you simply haven’t heard of it. But again, for all the doubt this 2014 season has, 2015 and 2016 aren’t exactly giving me any symptoms of panic, doubt or screaming.

      But are you suggesting it’s the QB who will be the outlier? Feel free to explain that, because I don’t get it. Alabama’s much more obvious issue seems to be the defense, not the QB. Strange comment.

    • 12
      nope

      Let me know when they get a “KEEP CALM AND DON’T FIRE SWINNEY” t-shirt. Clemson fans don’t know how good they’ve got it and they’re never satisfied.

  4. 13
    crimson hammah

    BS IT BETTER BE COKER OR WE GO 1-4 SEC START….YUP BLAKE SIMS LOOKS GREAT RIDING A TRICYCLE BUT THAT WON’T CUT IT VS FLA OLE MISS TAM TN….COKE LOOKED GOOD IN HIS WARM UP ON A SUPER CHARGED HARLEY SELAH

  5. 16
    finebammer

    anybody, ANYBODY who thinks Coker is ready to take this team into SEC play is a complete idiot.

    Sims is the STARTER. any argument otherwise is based in something other than reality.

  6. 18
    Hoopie

    Coker is slow footed, slow moving and almost appears slow minded. He just happens to have a big arm.

    Sims runs the offense just fine. That is really all that $aban’s offense needs. A QB trying to do too much will not work.

  7. 19
    bamminer

    Sims is likely either an advanced form of Wilson(was great everywhere except deep–inaccurate there[led a number 1 team his senior year 2 games short of a champ]) or McElroy(good-very good all over the field as long as he got protection and as long as receivers could get open[champion]). What makes him more advanced is that he is both very mobile(and since he was a RB) will likely have more freedom to run than any QB has under coach(a fuddy-duddy attitude about it and understandibly so normally). What Sims has is the chance to outdo McCarron’s effectiveness over the course of a single season. If the Oline can continue to play well, then he could become a truly scary Alabama QB. He’s truly dual threat; maybe potentially the closest thing to Tebow since he left college(tough enough to run often and accurate enough to be Wilson or McElroy; basically, he can run or throw on any play; they could run spread[select offensive plays can be run as the spread was designed and not simply as the wildcat] or traditional with him). I remind you that KSU had a similar QB, but was more like Tommie Frazier than Tebow(could throw well enough on the college level to be a serious threat).That range of the spread has not been an option for a very long time at Alabama(25 plus years ago–maybe a wishbone-like offense and maybe even going back to the Stabler[license and ability to run/throw on almost any play] era). If even most of his potential comes flooding through, then Alabama could easily become champ if the Oline is playing well. They do need to utilize him right; employ both offenses(the spread can be so easy to grasp that Malzahn uses it in an elementary fashion). My opinion.

    • 20
      nope

      Good thinking. Sims has certainly been underestimated. We’ll all get to see Saturday what he can do in SEC play when the heat is on.

      The Tebow thing though, I have yet to see a designed run for Sims. I’m not sure if Alabama would ever do that, and Sims hasn’t had to run much to extend plays either. He’s been effective when he does it, it’s just been rare compared to a guy like Tebow who was often looking to run deliberately.

  8. 21
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