In those days, reporters were free to wander onto Thomas Field and watch the Alabama summer football workouts. Even a sportswriter who couldn’t possibly know anything about football recognized a new face, obviously unsure of where to go or what to do. The newbie was directed to the equipment room to get shorts, shoes, etc.
It would be hard to judge at that time who looked better at quarterback, Danny Woodson or Jay Barker, but the late-arriving newcomer stole the show in the receiving game.
After the workout, Barker was asked what he thought of first-time receiver participant David Palmer. “Can you believe that guy?” Barker answered a question with a question.
Today’s Alabama coaching staff would rather give up two scholarships than allow reporters to watch summer workouts; and give up two more rather than allow sportswriters to interview the men who will be playing before 100,000-plus in a few months. Of course, Bama doesn’t have to make that choice. It’s their field and their players and they make the rules, which prohibit any first-hand account of what is going on.
(Well, maybe having a friend in the right condo overlooking the practice area would allow a little insight. But who could have that?)
Several times each day, one hears the question: “Who is going to be the quarterback?” In the last few days, interest in the most important position for the Crimson Tide has amped up because of the potential for a transfer joining the program. There were numerous reports that Jacob Park, who left the Georgia program after redshirting in his freshman season, might sign with Alabama, his second choice coming out of high school. Even if he chose to transfer to Bama, he would not factor in to the current quarterback battle.
Park would have to sit out 2015, and then would have three years of eligibility remaining.
He might, however, come in handy for the Tide’s fifth game of the season in Athens against Georgia. At the least, it would probably annoy Coach Mark Richt that Saban was getting the UGA audibles.
Of far more importance than that, though, is how the current Tide quarterback competition is coming.
At this time last year, Coker had transferred to Alabama from Florida State and there was almost 100 per cent agreement that he would win the job. The last memory at this time in 2014 was a sub-standard performance by Blake Sims in the A-Day Game. But Sims won the job and had a record-breaking season and was MVP as he led Bama to the Southeastern Conference Championship Game title.
That brings up a couple of thoughts. One is that Quarterbacks Coach and Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin knows his stuff, and proved it with the performance of Sims.
Also, at this time last year, Coker had no hands-on experience from Kiffin. In fact, when Kiffin reported to Alabama summer drills, he not only had no experience in the Bama system, he also was not the oldest quarterback nor logical leader of a group of men just meeting him.
In hindsight, Sims should have been the obvious choice to win the job, not Coker.
This year, Coker has had a season as the back-up quarterback, which means he was getting more practice time with the first team than any other quarterback last fall, and he seemed to be No. 1 in spring training. He has had that important year of working with his teammates in practices and in the weight room and bonding with them away from the football field.
In fact, all the returning quarterbacks have that year of experience in the Kiffin system, and even the true freshman, Barnett, has gone through spring practice running the Alabama offense.
Who is winning the battle right now? Maybe no one.
Saban pointed out that it wasn’t the job of the coaching staff to choose a starting quarterback. It is, he said, the job of the players to determine the depth chart at the position.
That will come in August.
The summer workouts have a part in quarterbacks honing their skills and fine-tuning timing with the receivers. If sportswriters were able to watch this, they could share their observations, for what that might be worth.
More important in June and July, though, is the quarterback(s) becoming the leader(s). They set up the workouts and run the drills without coaches on hand and prove to their teammates that they are the hardest workers on the team.
That’s what Saban is waiting to see.