Alabama Football News

Jake Coker: Significance of a conference opener

Cedric Mason- Touchdown Alabama Magazine

Alabama fans recognized the leadership of Blake Sims in the fourth game of the 2014 season.

No fear was seen in the eyes of the native Georgian as he took to Bryant-Denny Stadium in an Southeastern Conference opener against Florida. He completed 23 of 33 passes for 445 yards with four touchdowns to one interception. Sims guided Alabama to a 42-21 win and didn’t look back. Confidence, like winning, is earned and the best way to earn it is by solid execution.

Senior Jacob Coker played in seven games last season, but all his work came in mop up duty. Saturday night opens a new scenery, one that features Coker as the starting quarterback. He’s completed 63.8 percent of his throws; however, his outings in both games were conflicting.

A peace came over Coker against Wisconsin at AT&T Stadium on Sept. 5.

He was in rhythm and played within himself. A 71.4 percent completion mark would follow, as Coker connected on 15 of 21 passes for 219 yards with one touchdown and no turnovers.

It was a different story last week in front of a home crowd at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Crimson Tide fans saw a quarterback that was nervous, indecisive and simply out of sync. Ill-advised throws and missed reads caused Coker to finish at a completion mark of 57.7 percent. He threw for 214 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Alabama won, yet it wasn’t pretty.

A two-quarterback system looks fun, but having one signal-caller puts everything in perspective. Does Coker possess equal mobility as Sims? Of course not. Yet and still he has the same opportunity to do what Sims did last year, take full command of the starting job.

Ole Miss has a roster of ball hawks and true enforcers in its secondary. Defensive backs Tony Connor, Mike Hilton, Trae Elston and C.J. Hampton all prey on mediocre quarterbacks. This group has four interceptions on the season, three of which were returned for touchdowns.

A calm Coker bodes well for Alabama and spells doom for Mississippi. A flustered Coker is detrimental to Alabama and helps Ole Miss run the table in the SEC West. Timing, execution and consistency are three words that Alabama head coach Nick Saban is pumping into Coker.

He’s done some good things in the first two weeks, but Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin want him to fully win the team. A masterful performance against Ole Miss should help.

Stephen M. Smith is a senior analyst and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine and SB Nation. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.

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