Over the summer, there was a consensus among Bama fans: Jacob Coker would come in and lead a solid group of Crimson Tide wide receivers and running backs to an excellent season. The post AJ McCarron Tide would look similar, except Coker would be able to leverage his superior athletic tools to push Alabama forward.
Blake Sims took issue with that groupthink, and won the starting quarterback job heading into the West Virginia game. The season has not been without moments of consternation, but through all of it, Sims has been maturing as a player.
Consider the play below, taken from Alabama’s game against Arkansas. It exemplifies one of those moments of consternation.
In this play, Alabama lines up with Sims in the shotgun flanked by TJ Yeldon with a pair of wide receivers in a stack to the left side of the formation, and a single WR in the slot to the right. The Arkansas defense is in “nickel” personnel with four linemen, a pair of linebackers, and five defensive backs.
The Razorbacks have three defenders to keep an eye on the Bama stack, principally because the WR in the back of the stack is Amari Cooper.
On the snap, Sims immediately snaps his head left and waits for Amari Cooper to get open. Unfortunately, Cooper has drawn the attention of two defenders, and there’s a third coming from the right side of the formation as Cooper breaks toward the middle of the field. There is no window for Sims to complete the pass, but he throws it anyway. This pass should have been intercepted.
There were multiple problems with the play. Sims stared down Cooper from the snap onward which only contributed to the defense swarming toward No. 9. On top of that, he still threw an ill-advised pass that results in a turnover more often than not.
Fast forward one week to the Texas A&M game following a week where Sims saw the mistake on film, and certainly received some coaching to correct the issue.
The Alabama offense lines up with two wide receivers split wide left along with TJ Yeldon seven yards deep in the back field. Blake Sims goes under center to receive the snap. Motion before the snap by ArDarius Stewart moves him to within a couple of yards of Amari Cooper and creates an offset stack.
At the snap, Stewart goes deep, and Cooper runs a deep out route while TJ Yeldon goes through the fake handoff and runs a short leak play. The A&M defense has the two receivers blanketed, and Sims even goes so far as to nearly knock himself over with a hard pump fake. Here’s where Sims showcases some maturity.
Instead of throwing what would have been an ill-advised throw to either Cooper or Stewart, Sims checks the ball down to a wide open TJ Yeldon for what would have been, at worst, a five yard gain. As it stands, Yeldon was able to make a man miss and turned the check down into a first down.
That maturation in the passing game has mirrored what Sims has been able to do running the football as well. Blake Sims has always been a running threat, but he’s showing a greater willingness to go get yards, or take the what the defense gives and then get out of bounds, in recent weeks.
That penchant was on display against Tennessee. On numerous occasions, particularly on third down, Sims was able to secure the needed yards to keep a drive alive.
As the Crimson Tide head into a tough game against the LSU Tigers in a week, all of that growth will have to be on display for Alabama to pull out a victory.