Note From SEC: Tide Has Shoes To Fill

As often has been pointed out here, it is not unusual for the most stiumlating conversation at Southeastern Conference Media Days comes not from the podium, but rather in the hallways. Fellow journalists are much more likely to discuss what is on their minds than are the coaches and the coached-up players who are the presumed stars of the show this week in Hoover.

To wit: Alabama has the biggest shoes to fill at two positions, replacing wide receiver Amari Cooper and quarterback Blake Sims.

Pul-leeze!

True, Alabama had Julio Jones. And Ozzie Newsome. And Don Hutson. That’s the rarified air we’re talking about when we talk Amari Cooper, who departed for the NFL after his junior season. There will be a man playing the same wide receiver position as did Cooper last year, when he was the nation’s best. The Biletnikoff Award winner caught 124 passes for 1,724 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Make a guess and Ardarius Stewart is as good as any. Chris Black seems more suited to slot (replacing Christion Jones), so the wide guys taking the places of Cooper snd DeAndrew White look to be Stewart and Robert Foster.

That’s of the ones we’ve seen. Incoming freshman Calvin Ridley has a lot of fan support as the next Amari.

For now, though, let’s agree to agree that Alabama is not likely to have someone “fill the shoes” of Amari Cooper in the sense that any wide receiver will have the impact Cooper did.

Replacing Blake Sims is probably more important than replacing Cooper. Quarterback is the most important position on the field, we are told with frequency. That’s because the statement is true. Last year Sims came from out of the blue to be one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC. He was first in the SEC in passing efficiency, second in total offense, and third in passing yards.

And at this time last year during 2014 SEC Media Days almost no one expected Blake Sims to be the Alabama quarterback.

Don’t expect the answer to come during these four days in Hoover, not even during Wednesday’s presentation by Tide Coach Nick Saban and the three Bama players (Reggie Ragland, Ryan Kelly, and Kenyan Drake) who meet the media. In fact, particularly not on Wednesday.

Saban has said that he won’t choose the quarterback. It is up to those competing for the job to show the coaches who is number one, number two, and so on. Look for that answer in August, maybe. The coaches hope it will be a week or two before Bama opens the season against Wisconsin on Sept. 5 in Dallas.

What should not be lost in this discussion is that Lane Kiffin – the man who took Blake Sims from not eing part of the discussion to one of the most productive quarterbacks in the SEC last year – is still charged with coaching the candidates.

If this was a horse race, the favorite probably would be Jacob Coker. But he was also the favorite at this time last year and his numbers were 38 completions in 59 attempts for 4-3 yards and four touchdowns. He did not throw an interception.

Beyond that, redshirt freshman David Cornwell, who was injured last season, seems to have the most support. And after him would be junior Alec Morris, sophomore Cooper Bateman, and true freshman Blake Barnett.

So what to say to those who talk about the big shoes that have to be filled at Alabama?

“You’re right. Coach Saban was probably thinking about that when he was recruiting the past few years.”

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