Saban Has Answer To QB Question

On Wednesday in his annual spring meeting with sportswriters who cover Alabama football on a daily basis, Alabama Coach Nick Saban provided a savings plan. He saved the reporters from asking at least 1,000 questions between now and the first game.

"You guys are going to ask me at least a thousand times between now and the first game, ‘Who's the first team quarterback?' and I'm telling you right now you're probably going to get a thousand ‘We're going to wait and see.'"

Alabama begins spring practice a week from Saturday, March 15, and will finish on April 19 with the A-Day Game.

A key position to fill is quarterback, but the issue is not likely to be decided in those 15 practices," Saban said. "Let me be very clear about this," he said. "We're not going to be in any hurry to decide who the quarterback is. We're going to give everybody a lot of opportunity to compete."

Quarterback is the most important position on the field and the Crimson Tide lost one of the best in history with the graduation of A.J. McCarron. McCarron set virtually every Alabama passing record, finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting, was winner of the Maxwell Award as the college player of the year and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, and was first team All-America by the Walter Camp Foundation and the American Football Coaches Association. In three years as a starter he quarterbacked Alabama to 36 wins and two national championships.

And, as Saban reminded, McCarron was in a nip-and-tuck battle with Phillip Sims for the starting job through the first game of the 2011 season before emerging as the starter.

"And it was really hard on you guys," is the way Saban remembers it.

Those players we'll be dying to ask about this spring are:

Upcoming senior Blake Sims, 6-0, 202, who has been the back-up to McCarron the past two years; Alec Morris, a 6-3, 230-pound third-year sophomore; Cooper Bateman, a 6-3, 208-pound redshirt freshman; Parker McLeod, 6-3, 193, also a redshirt freshman; and David Cornwell, 6-5, 215, a true freshman who entered The University this semester in order to go through spring practice. Bateman and McLeod did that last year, so they are going through their second springs.

"And," said Saban, "we have one candidate in this horse race who's not even going to be here until May, 'til he graduates where he is now. He's certainly a guy that's going to compete for the position too." That would be Jacob Coker, a 6-5, 232-pound quarterback who backed up Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston last year at FSU. He will earn his degree this spring, then transfer to Alabama where he will have two years of eligibility and will be immediately able to participate.

"I think it's important to get it right," Saban said. "The best chance to get it right is to see who...consistency in performance sort of defines success in anything. It's no different in this.

"I think the most important thing about playing quarterback is to be able to process information quickly, make a decision, throw the ball accurately in the passing game, and I think the biggest thing is to be able to manage and get us in the right plays when we're sort of running the ball. Whoever can do that on the most consistent basis and have the kind of leadership to affect the people on offense around them is the guy that will probably have the best possibility to win the job."

One wrinkle in the quarterback development and competition is that there is a new quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, former head coach at Tennessee and USC, Lane Kiffin.

Kiffin hasn't had a chance to work with his quarterbacks yet, but Saban said, "Every coach wants to create as much improvement as possible with the players that he coaches and the unit that he's responsible for. I think Lane certainly has the knowledge and experience to do that. I think players sort of respect him and, from what I've seen so far, (they) have a good relationship. You're talking about off-season program and off-the-field kind of stuff, but I think from an accountability standpoint, coaches and players, that because of his knowledge and experience that would be something that he can contribute to our team in a positive way with."

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