This is not a new phenomenon for Alabama football. Last year Jacob Coker left Florida State with a degree and two years of eligibility, and everyone expected him to be the Crimson Tide quarterback. As it turned out, Coker spent the 2014 season as the back-up to Blake Sims. seeing only limited duty as Bama followed the three A.J. McCarron seasons with a Southeastern Conference championship.
The Coker transfer may pay dividends for Alabama this year as the senior from Mobile is considered by most to be the leader for the Tide quarterback position. But, most considered him the leader last year, too.
Moving on to the addition of Richard Mullaney, there is a bit of a question as to what is to be gained by taking a player with just one year of eligibility.
First of all, the positions of wide receiver and quarterback involve great differences. From a team standpoint, the quarterback is usually the leader of the team. Wide receivers are less about the team and more about, “Hey, I’m open every play! Get me the ball.”
That’s what makes summer ball an important factor in team building. Coaches cannot be involved as players work out in what is known as “pass skel” work. Basically, it is quarterbacks and eligible receivers working on plays against linebackers and defensive backs. Obviously, it includes physical work, including passing and pass catching, that can be valuable in the fall.
More than that, perhaps, is the leadership aspect, meaning from the quarterbacks. Almost everyone attributes part of Sims’ success in winning the job last year to his relationship with his teammates, built over several years and polished last summer after the departure of McCarron.
A big question about Alabama’s 2015 season is how the quarterbacks are measuring up to their teammates in Alabama’s hot 2015 summer.
Tide Coach Nick Saban pointed out last spring that it wasn’t up to the coaching staff to choose a quarterback. It is up to the quarterback candidates to earn the position.
In considering the addition of Mullaney to the Alabama squad, there is quite another difference between quarterbacks and wide receivers. This year’s Crimson Tide team is looking for a replacement for Sims at quarterback. Many pre-season outlooks naturally point to Bama’s need also to replace Amari Cooper, one of the finest wide receivers in college football history.
A longtime trend has been that teams play just one quarterback as long as he is healthy. The back-up gets some practice reps and mop-up work when the game is decided. Therefore, the addition of a quarterback with just one year to play is somewhat risky. The quarterback must master the playbook, learn his teammates from a timing standpoint, and become the leader in a short time if he is going to be that one guy.
A wide receiver, on the other hand, is one of a number who will play. In Alabama’s offense, there will almost always be two wide receivers and about as often as not there will be three wide men in the lineup. Moreover, substitution is frequent at the wide receiver spots, so instead of one man playing there could be a half dozen or more in the wide receiver rotation.
In the spring, the position was a bit thin to be adequate at X (split end), Z (flanker), and H (slot). Ardarius Stewart and Robert Foster had impressive A-Day performances. Chris Black came to Bama with a fine reputation, but also with an injury that kept him back. Raheem Falkins and Derrick Kief have been waiting their turns. Former walk-on Parker Barrineau could be one of the surprises for the Tide this fall. Deionte Thompson worked in the secondary early in the spring, then moved to wide receiver.
Calvin Ridley enters The University this year with tremendous credentials and Daylon Charlot’s accomplishments and rankings aren’t far behind.
Wide receiver is based so much on sheer athletic ability that it is possible for a Thompson to move from defense to offense and become productive. Similarly, Mullaney can come from a different system and begin to fit in during summer drills and earn his spot in fall camp.
Over the years, junior college transfers at some positions, even with two years to play, frequently have had problems making the adjustment to major college football. The offs of a graduate transfer making the transition are probably better than those of a junior college player, but one year (which will be the norm) is cutting it close.
Just as players coming from high school to college, one could expect certain positions – quarterback, offensive line – to be more difficult in the transition than others – wide receiver, running back, safety.