Alabama is searching for a quarterback. It has looked within the team, primarily in Blake Sims, and it reached out in signing two quarterbacks in this class, true freshman David Cornwell and Florida State transfer Jacob Coker.
Cornwell was in Tuscaloosa for spring practice, but is recovering from knee surgery. In any event, as a true freshman he was going against history as Coach Nick Saban doesn’t ordinarily have a true freshman as his quarterback. Neither does any other coach who can avoid it.
In addition to Sims, the roster has two others who have been a part of the team for awhile, redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman and sophomore Alec Morris. Bateman had been considered the number three man following a nice A-Day performance last spring and through fall camp.
Saban didn’t exactly crush the presumption of Bateman as number three this week, but he did offer a nugget of information when he said, “Alec Morris has actually had a really good fall camp. We feel like he’s made a lot of progress.
“We’re kind of encouraged by what all three of those guys have done.”
The other two, of course, are Sims and Coker. Saban hasn’t even bothered to mention them by name in previous comments about the competition between two men for the job.
This week Saban said it’s getting close to decision time, but the decision is not his. It is up to the competitors.
“Somebody has got to take the job,” Saban said. “One day one guy plays really well and you say, ‘Well, that looks like that might be it.’ And the next day the other guy plays rally well.
“I think the good news is we have two guys that I would feel very comfortable playing.”
And immediately one thinks of the adage that if a team has two quarterbacks, it really doesn’t have one.
Saban added, “But I would like to see somebody take the bull by the horns from a leadership standpoint, a consistency standpoint and win the job here sometime. But we're not going to make a decision until somebody does that.”
Talk around the Alabama camp – and around the college football world, for that matter – includes rehashing the 2011 pre-season when A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims were considered neck-and-neck up to and through the season-opening game. McCarron won the job for the second game at Penn State and led Bama to the national championship that year.
That doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen that way for the Crimson Tide this year. There are, however, reasons to believe the quarterback battle will go into the season. For one thing, no one has pulled away yet, and Bama is a week and a half from starting the season. Another reason, frankly, is because the early schedule allows experimentation. Alabama will be a heavy favorite over its first three opponents – West Virginia in Atlanta on Aug. 30, followed by home games against Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss.
It would not be a shock to see the final quarterback decision made in time for the Tide’s game against Florida on Sept. 20.
Until last Saturday, when Bama had its final scrimmage of fall camp, almost everyone expected Coker to take the helm. But following that scrimmage there were all sorts of reports that it had been Sims who had been best.
Saban discussed the improvement in Sims’s game. He said, “Blake's really improved first of all his knowledge of the offense. He's capable of doing a lot more things. Really improved as a passer and because he's improved as a passer, I think he's more confident. So he doesn't go what I call rat-trap and start running around. He really has enough confidence to throw the ball on time and throw it to the right place and feel like he can make a completion and not have to do everything himself. I think those are probably the two areas that i think he's improved in the most.”