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Alabama’s Quarterback Battle: Is Jacob Coker the guy?

With spring practice and A-Day in the books, Alabama fans believe Florida State transfer Jacob Coker is the guy for Lane Kiffin’s offense.

Before A-Day, Blake Sims was making progress in spring practice. He displayed command in the huddle and was passing the ball effectively. Sims’s footwork in the pocket was fluent and his confidence was starting to grow. In Alabama’s two scrimmage games, Sims completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 455 yards and five touchdowns.

Despite his knowledge for the system, Sims tries to do too much instead of letting the game come to him. Practice speed is different than game speed. In practice, you are in a controlled environment with your coaches and teammates. While most practices are closed to the public, A-Day is one when every fan can see you.

Aside from the players and coaching staff, 73,506 Tide fans saw an unprepared Blake Sims on April 19, 2014.  Sims failed to get in rhythm and looked out of sync with the offense. He finished A-Day going 13-30 passing for 178 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Sims has mobility; however, he needs to focus on playing his style at quarterback.

Cooper Bateman increased his chances of being the starter with his A-Day performance. Like Sims, Bateman had a great spring and received the most reps after Sims. Bateman completed 53.6 percent of his passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns in both scrimmage games.

Bateman is mobile, but he also brings a gunslinger’s mentality to the team. He has a quick release and can thread the needle. In the spring game, Bateman went 11-24 passing for 156 yards and a touchdown.  Half of his passes were bullets down the field. Bateman displayed exceptional arm strength and placed the ball in the right spots on most of his throws.

Two of his best passes from A-Day went to Robert Foster (34 yards) and ArDarius Stewart (32 yards). Along with distributing the ball, Bateman was able to avoid pressure and pick up yards with his feet. Bateman had the strongest performance; however, he needs to work more on accuracy. At times, Bateman tends to show too much confidence in his arm by trying to force throws downfield.

Before Jacob Coker signed his letter of intent, Alec Morris was said to be AJ McCarron’s successor. With Sims and Bateman getting most of the reps, Morris has become the odd man out. In 2013, Morris spent his time huddled around Saban and McCarron gleaming knowledge of Alabama’s offense. Knowledge is good, but the question becomes when will it be put to use? Crimson Tide fans didn’t see much of the Texas native in the spring.

Morris went 13-19 passing for 147 yards and a touchdown in Alabama’s scrimmage games. He had an interesting A-Day to say the least. Morris got time at quarterback, but most of his work came on special teams. Morris went 3-7 passing for 9 yards and an interception, yet he had 15 punts for an average of 38.4 yards.

Morris isn’t cut out to be the punter; when JK Scott arrives in the fall that issue will be solved. Morris has the size and the arm to be an effective quarterback, but will need work twice as hard as everyone else for the job.

David Cornwell and Parker McLeod received the least number of reps this spring. Cornwell’s knee is healthy and he’s practicing with his teammates. He’s a big guy at 6’5” 241 pounds with a strong arm and mobility, but he just hasn’t had a lot of opportunities.  In the spring game, Cornwell played one series and was 0-1 passing. The crimson team was backed up inside the 5-yard line when he entered the game. He was thrown into the wolves and it was very nerve wrecking for him.

McLeod got some reps at spring practice, but only played one series on A-Day. Like Cornwell, McLeod attempted one pass and it was incomplete. McLeod could be a successful quarterback, but it is seems his ceiling just isn’t as high as his competitors.

Both defenses were the stars in the spring game. Alabama fans were proud of its defense, but continue to await Coker’s arrival in Tuscaloosa. Though he has graduated, Coker will skip the march and will be in Tuscaloosa in May for summer conditioning and fall camp.

Like Cornwell, Coker is a big guy. He has the potential to help the Tide have a successful season offensively. Coker battled the 2013 Heisman winner Jameis Winston at Florida State, but Alabama won’t know how good he is until he suits up in the fall for the Crimson Tide.

The pieces for Coker to work with are there and Lane Kiffin’s forte is developing quarterbacks. The fans may believe he that he is, but Coker must ask himself if he is ready to be the guy under center for Alabama.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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