QB Compeitition For More Than Job
Although Alabama Coach Nick Saban frequently points out there is not a depth chart in spring practice, if there was it would almost certainly have Blake Sims on top. In the brief work reporters see of practice each year, it is Sims who leads the quarterback individual work.
Sims, a 6-0, 208-pound senior from Gainesville, Ga., was the Crimson Tide back-up to A.J. McCarron the past two years. He doesn't have much experience – and really no meaningful experience since he was used primarily at the end of Bama routs.
Early in the spring Saban said that Sims needed to make progress as a passer in a pro-style offense, and the coach also said that Sims is making progress. In the past, he has been a spread type quarterback, operating from the shotgun and as likely to run (67 rushes for 355 yards and two touchdowns in his career) as pass (23-39 completions for 244 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions).
Sims is competing with upcoming sophomore Alec Morris, redshirt freshmen Cooper Bateman and Parker McLeod, and true freshman David Cornwell. And though he's not on the practice field, upcoming junior Jacob Coker has been around and he'll be a contender in fall camp.
"We're not thinking about the battle against each other," Sims said following Bama's sixth practice of spring training Wednesday. "We're just trying to think of how we can make Bama the best they can be, and how can we have good communication with the players if we're with the ones or we're with the twos or with the threes. We're just trying to play harder and make each group better."
The Tide will practice again Friday – Saban said it would be to polish some things – and then have the first of three scrimmages at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday. The final scrimmage will be the only one open to the public, the A-Day Game on April 19.
Sims gave a little scouting report on the men who are working with him at quarterback. He said "They bring a lot of things. Everybody's a good teammate. Everybody keeps it positive. I think the coaches like what we bring."
Blake's teammate, upcoming senior safety Nick Perry, was a little more specific about the quarterback candidates.
"It's going to be a good competition," said Perry. "We have four or five good guys who are getting the reps. You have Blake Sims who is an experienced guy. Then you have Alec Morris who is a gunslinger. You have Cooper Bateman, who's more of a Greg McElroy type, AJ McCarron type. It's going to be a good competition so be prepared for it."
As for Sims, Perry said, "There are two plays with Blake: the one they call on offense and then when that one doesn't go right, it's the one he makes with his feet. We've seen that in college football and even in the NFL with players like Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel. He's a dangerous player."
Sims said, "I try not to think about the competition. I just try to think about my teammates and how can I make them better and how can I go from there and take their skills and put into my skills and make myself better.
"It's very fun, because there's a lot of kids that would love to be in this position and aren't able to be here. It's very fun, to see where your ability can take you in life. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity. I'm having fun out there. Everybody's smiling. Everybody's having fun. Just trying to do what we've got to do to be the best."
There is more to the competition, the impending arrival of Coker. Coker, who is taking his final classes on line at FSU before transferring, has been around Bama. Sims said, "I have talked to him. He has a great personality, and I'm ready for him to get here and make Bama even better as a team and bring his personality and make everybody smile and take him in with open arms."
Sims puts a lot of emphasis on being a team player, and on knowing his teammates. He said he wants to know all that he can about his teammates, what he can count of them to do.
"You've got to know what makes them smile," Sims said. "I try not to be a nagging player. I try to come up to them so that they know when Blake comes up that I'm coming with positive things and to pick them up."
There is more to interest in the quarterback situation than just the competing players. A new man in town is Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Lane Kiffin. Sims said, "He's bringing nothing but great things--explosion, putting everybody in great position to make explosive plays so we can win ball games."
That doesn't mean great changes in the offense. Sims said, "There's not much difference. It's pretty much the same thing." Sims did say there were some changes in formations, but that the key is "what we've got to do is execute."
Sims had a productive spring break last week. He went to Florida and worked under quarterbacks teacher Ken Mastrole. "It worked out very well," Sims said. "My footwork got better and accuracy improved."
Sims repeatedly comes back to those issues. He said that things have gone well in the spring. "I think I've improved my footwork and my accuracy," he said. He said that he still needs to work on reading defenses.
"You can always get better with your footwork and knowing where my player's going to be at this time and at different times," he said.
As for developing into a pro-style passer, Sims said the main issue is his footwork, and adds the task of coming from under center. And then he adds reading defenses.
Sims said spring practice is going well. And he's looking forward to Saturday's scrimmage. He said it will provide an opportunity for the team to show it's the same Bama of recent years.
Those recent teams were quarterbacked by AJ McCarron, and Sims said he has taken the opportunity to speak with McCarron.
"He's been coaching me and just keeping me positive and giving me his thoughts and his positive things that he did while he was here. He says, ‘Just stay positive and keep a smile on your face and keep good poise.'"
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