Upcoming senior Alabama quarterback Blake Sims had hardly walked out of the Bryant-Denny Stadium tunnel in preparation for the 2014 team photo when the Jake Coker questions starting flying. “(Jake) Coker is a great guy,” Sims said of his new teammate, who joined the team in early May after transferring from Florida State. “(Jake) Coker is a great guy,” said Sims. “I like his personality. I’m glad he decided to come here. His spirit is so ‘up.’ He can see a guy who’s having a down day, talk to him, and make him have a better day.”
Selected players met with reporters prior to the start of Sunday's practice at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the open practice that is a part of Fan Day.
Sims added that Coker is not the only guy on the 2014 Tide squad who can be a “pick-me-up.” You can add quiet leader T.J. Yeldon to that list, as well. “(Yeldon) sets an example by his actions,” Sims said. “He’s not a loud guy, but if you’re having a down day, he’ll tap you on the butt, and say, ‘I need you.’ He’s a leader on this team.”
So too, apparently, is formerly quiet practice player Amari Cooper, a junior wide receiver. Sims said, “Amari is (now) very outspoken. He wants to be great. In the past, he spoke by his actions. Now he’s being more vocal.
“Amari’s best thing is getting open. He’s a great route runner.”
Another senior leader in the Tide receiving corps is DeAndrew White, who says he’s now “100 per cent” after foot surgery earlier this year. “I feel great,” said the senior. “I’m ready to get the season kicked off.
“I don’t really set specific (individual) goals. I just try to go hard, one play at a time.”
White said he doesn’t mind blocking, a must for any receiver in the UA rotation. “Blocking is great,” he said. “I take pride in it, but I try to be a great all-around receiver, and blocking is part of that.” Several of White’s coaches and teammates have said recently that he may be the team’s top blocking wideout.
Regarding his decision to return for his senior year after briefly considering going pro, White says he got some good advice. “Coach (Nick) Saban is a guy I look up to. He helped me with all (the grading process) a lot.”
Asked to name a few leaders by example on the 2014 team, White said, “Myself, ‘Coop’ (Amari Cooper), (Christion) Jones and Blake (Sims) have been out doing a lot of extra work.”
While White is more accustomed to catching passes from Sims, he’s had since early May to get used to working with Coker.
“He’s got a real good arm,” White noted. “He throws a great deep ball. He helps us out, (but, as for quarterbacks) they all look pretty good. There’s a lot of competition. You can’t take anything from any of them.”
White likes what he’s seen thus far from his new offensive coordinator, too. “I love Coach (Lane) Kiffin,” he said. You never know who’s going to get the ball in his offense. His ‘West Coast’ style gets the ball in the playmaker’s hands.”
One such playmaker could well be sophomore tight end O.J. Howard. White said, “O.J. is a big guy, but he’s also a speed guy. He can do it all.
“I think we (as an offense) can be very dominant. We have a great receiving corps.”
Many Tide defenders among those made available fielded questions about the ever-popular (to fans, but not defenses) “Hurry Up, No-Huddle” offense. Said redshirt sophomore defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson, “The big guys (on the team) got together and we did more cardio this off-season. I’m in a little better shape (compared to spring and coming off an injury). I’ve lost about five pounds. Several guys on the d-line got thinner. I think (senior noseguard) Brandon Ivory went from about 320 to in the 290’s. He probably lost the most weight.”
Tomlinson said getting leaner was important for he and his fellow defensive linemen “just to help us keep up with the pace. I’m not really that concerned about (playing HUNH) teams, but I really enjoy it more playing against the teams that play slow.”
Tomlinson, a standout in soccer and wrestling at Henry County in Georgia, said the latter helped him more than the former in his development as a football player. “I think soccer helped with my footwork, but wrestling helped me more as a football player because it helped me with my leverage and my hand-placement.”