Alabama opens vs. West Virginia with quarterback questions
ATLANTA (AP) – Time to get some answers about Alabama’s quarterback competition.
Florida State transfer Jake Coker and fifth-year senior Blake Sims have been vying for the top job throughout preseason practice and coach Nick Saban says they have been running neck-and-neck. The second-ranked Crimson Tide’s opener against West Virginia at the Georgia Dome on Saturday is probably another audition for both.
“I think it’s our responsibility to give both guys an opportunity,” Saban said. “That’s how we recruit players to come here, that they’re all going to get a fair opportunity to play. We’re going to choose the best players that give our team the best opportunity to be successful based on how they perform. Both guys have performed well, and Blake has performed very, very well.”
Where exactly this leaves Alabama at the most important position on the field is anybody’s guess.
Coker came to Alabama after serving one season as Florida State’s backup to Jameis Winston. Seminoles coaches insist that Coker gave the eventual Heisman Trophy winner a legitimate run for the starting job before last season.
Coker arrived in Tuscaloosa with much hype as the presumptive replacement for AJ McCarron. Saban did his best to knock down those assumptions.
Sims’ career numbers: 23 of 39 for 244 yards and two touchdowns. Coker’s line: 21 for 41, 295, one TD, one interception. Sims is more mobile at 6-foot-0 and 208 pounds. Coker is bigger at 6-5, 230.
Alabama either has two good quarterbacks or two not-good-enough quarterbacks.
Should Tide fans be worried?
Given all Alabama’s playmakers, whomever is taking snaps for should be supported about as well as any quarterback in the country. T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake are all among the best backs in the Southeastern Conference. Wide receiver Amari Cooper is a potential All-American, as is tight end O.J. Howard.
Also, the last time the Tide went into a season with an unsettled quarterback situation, it won the national championship in McCarron’s first year as a starter.
So the Tide faithful probably shouldn’t stress too much. But this is Bama, where seasons without championships are not taken lightly.
And unsteady quarterback can send even the most finely tuned machine careering off the road to the College Football Playoff and into a Capital One Bowl ditch.
Some other things to know about the first meeting between Alabama and West Virginia.
OH, YEAH, WEST VIRGINIA. The Mountaineers are here, too. Coming off a dreary 4-8 season, West Virginia has a chance to change the trajectory of a program that’s been heading in the wrong direction under fourth-year coach Dana Holgorsen.