There was a popular country music song a few years ago, “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool,” or something like that. According to his teammates, Alabama quarterback Jacob Coker is kind of country and very cool.
Jacob Coker transferred from Florida State a little over a year ago and it was expected that he would be the Crimson Tide quarterback. It didn’t happen. Blake Sims won the job and Coker was a little used back-up.
This year he started the season as the number one quarterback, but he was splitting time with Cooper Bateman in the first two games. In something of a surprise, Bateman started the third game against Ole Miss, but when the team faltered, Coker took over. His performance in that game wasn’t enough to get Alabama the win, but it did seem to put the reins of the offense back in his hands.
Coker, a 6-5, 232-pound senior who was at Florida State competing with Jameis Winston for a couple of years before transferring to Bama, is a native of Mobile, not exactly in the country. But he does have that laid back manner of a couple of former Crimson Tide quarterbacks from the same neck of the woods, as it were – AJ McCarron of recent success and Kenny Stabler of a half century ago.
Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen said, “He’s a great guy to be around. Funny guy. Country guy. Just a fun guy.”
Coker had an exceptional game last week in Athens in leading Bama to a critical 38-10 win. It was a performance under difficult circumstances considering the opposition in the form of the eighth-ranked Bulldogs, the hostile environment, and bad weather.
Coker responded well, completing 11-16 passes for 190 yards with no interceptions and hitting freshman wide receiver Calvin Ridley on a pass thrown perfectly to the end zone on a 45-yard score. Coker also had six runs for 28 yards, including a nice bootleg for a touchdown.
On his touchdown pass to Ridley, Coker was knocked to the ground. He tried to peek around the linemen in front of him, but was blocked out. The crowd noise told him it was a touchdown.
Coker gave an enthusiastic fist pump that caught the attention of his teammates. Allen said, “He does it all the time in practice. I wasn’t surprised. I was just excited, enjoying the moment. It wasn’t anything new to us.”
Coker said, “It was pretty exciting. I’ve heard stories from just about everybody making fun of me about how crazy I was acting after that. But it was a special moment.
”I usually don’t feel too much emotion, I guess,” he said. “It’s hard not to in those big games, and I had a lot of fun out there. It’s been a lot of fun, just playing and doing what you have to do. It’s a fun game.
“But if I had not completed a pass, I would have been just as excited we won that game.
“I’m looking forward to this week, though.”
This week is another Southeastern Conference game. Alabama, 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the SEC, is back in the nation’s top 10 and hosting an Arkansas team that has not lived up to expectations. The Razorbacks, though, are coming off a nice road win at Tennessee and the Hogs have improved to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the conference. Kickoff in Bryant-Denny Stadium is at 6 p.m. CDT with ESPN televising the game.
Coker said he thinks “we’re getting better every week. It’s something that we have to do, and I think we’re progressing every week.
“I guess it started against Ole Miss. We started getting better and better. But we’ve been getting better and better the whole time. You know, we still have a long way to go and right now I’m focused on Arkansas and just have to get ready for that game.
“I think we’re all getting more and more on the same page. We’re getting more comfortable with each other and I think it’s showing.”
Part of that familiarity is Coker with his receivers. “It’s pretty big,” he said. “You’ve got to know what each other is thinking and you just have to trust that the guy is going to be there. We have a lot of guys who are going to make plays and I think we’re just going to get better as the year goes.”
Asked about his confidence level, Coker said, “I feel pretty good about it. I’ve been studying the things I need to study and I feel comfortable with the calls that Coach (Lane) Kiffin makes.”
For the year, Coker has completed 79 of 139 passes (56.8 per cent) for 976 yards with 9 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He has run 21 times for 73 yards and has scored 2 rushing touchdowns.