Connect with us
Jake Coker and ArDarius Stewart

There were a lot of hugs for Jake Coker on Saturday

For those who watched the Alabama Crimson Tide clobber the Georgia Bulldogs yesterday, you may not have noticed a subtle gesture by head coach Nick Saban that may have told you everything you need to know about how he feels about his quarterback Jake Coker. As the time ticked down, and just before the typical hand shake between opposing coaches, Saban sought out his quarterback and embraced him for a job well done.

For how the 2015 season began for the Crimson Tide football team, not many would have guessed as to the outcome of yesterday’s beat down of the Bulldogs on their home field. With so much speculation this offseason of who Alabama’s starting quarterback would be, five weeks into it, we now know without a shadow of a doubt who that man is now.

Coker’s college career has not been an ideal storyline in terms of how you would typically draw it up as a high school senior. If you ask the typical teenager who plays any sport, the majority of them will tell you their aspirations are to play in the pros for their respected sport. For these same teens, many of them actually believe they will be pro players — even the one’s who are third-stringers.

For Coker, he waited in the shadows of AJ McCarron at St. Paul’s Episcopal High School in Mobile, Alabama and when he got his shot, he too made a name for himself and caught the eyes of the Alabama coaching staff. However, Coker already committed to the Florida State Seminoles and chose to honor his commitment rather than opting to switch to his beloved childhood dream school.

At Florida State, Coker once again sat back and waited his turn, this time behind E.J. Manuel. After Manuel entered the draft, it was assumed a highly competitive battle between Coker and redshirt freshman Jameis Winston would ensue and the winner of the two would put a talented Florida State team in contention for a national championship.

According to reports, the competition was tight all through spring practice, however, Coker eventually lost to the freshman and Winston went on to lead the Seminoles to the last national championship of the BCS era, as well as a Heisman trophy to boot.

Knowing his fate was sealed with the Noles and his opportunity for a starting job reduced to rubbles, Coker decided to head back home and roll with his favorite team who was in need of a quarterback of his caliber.

Unfortunately for Coker, he walked into a situation in which even he was not fully prepared for what would happen.

With a second straight lackluster spring performance from Blake Sims, it was believed incoming transfer Coker would easily supplant him as Alabama’s new signal caller and have a similar story to his fellow teammate Winston and lead the Tide to a championship.

Well, neither happened for Coker as he struggled during fall camp and a poor showing in Alabama’s final scrimmage allowed Sims — who greatly improved over the summer — to take the reigns completely for the Tide.

So here we are again, another year of waiting. Another year being told you’re not good enough to run a team and having to compete yet again for a starting job in the spring. The speculation continued with Coker as to if he would ever start in his college career as reports from Tuscaloosa came that redshirt freshman David Cornwell was the primary competition for Coker in the spring and his leadership skills were impressing the coaching staff and his teammates.

Despite all of this, Coker never backed down, and he continued to stay the course and what started out as a shaky fall camp in which two quarterbacks were believed to be ahead of Coker, he battled until the end to become Alabama’s opening day starter against the Wisconsin Badgers.

Coker finished the game 15-21 for 213 yards and one touchdown. Interestingly enough though, Coker did not finish the game as backup Cooper Bateman received the final snaps. Saban, who named Coker the starter, still was not completely sold on him and made it clear both quarterbacks would play in the first few games until there was a separation.

While Coker played well against the Badgers, the love fest did not last long as his second start against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders was met with inconsistencies and inaccurate throws throughout the entire contest. To the fans dismay, many began to call for a change and while Saban does not openly care what fans think or have to say, something got his attention and what happened next was a total shocker.

With the biggest game of the season for the Tide coming up against the Ole Miss Rebels, Saban threw a completely unexpected curve ball by starting Bateman, who at this time never started a game in the three years as a member of the Tide’s football team. Whatever Saban’s motives were for doing this, they failed as Bateman was unable to orchestrate any meaningful scoring drives for Alabama, and was benched after throwing an ill-advised pass in the second quarter.

Re-enter Coker.

Coker came into the game and played like a man with something to prove. With the Tide trailing 30-10, Coker led a comeback with sheer guts and passion simply doing whatever it took to win. His efforts came up short, but it was no question he won the team that night, and the confidence in the coaching staff.

I made the point last week after the Louisiana-Monroe game that the most important factor in Alabama’s season was the decision to finally give Coker 100 percent of the first-team reps in practice. While he struggled with inconsistencies in the first half of last week’s game, he settled down in the second and looked much more poised.

It’s as if the lightbulb went off in Coker’s head that no more will he have to look over his shoulder and wonder if his missed read, or bad throw would get him pulled. For the first time in his college career, he was given the complete confidence to just go out and play the game he loves and lead his team like he’s capable of.

The ups and downs of a five-year college career have led to a culmination of highs and lows for Coker, but for a player who has been seen as having thin-skin, he put those doubts to rest by leading the Tide to a blowout win over the Bulldogs yesterday and had his best game of his career despite the terrible conditions.

The hug from Saban symbolized more than just his pleasure of how well Coker played. It’s  the same gesture one’s father gives to his son for the achievements accomplished. He was proud. He was proud that throughout the adversity, Coker displayed the mental toughness to overcome all of the naysayers and doubters who believed he would never be the guy to lead the Tide back to a championship.

But now, there’s no more doubt. There’s no more worries. Coker is Saban’s guy, and he earned every bit of it.

Brandon Williams is an Editor and Columnist for Touchdown AlabamaYou can follow him on Twitter, @BWilliamsTDAL, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.

More in Alabama Football News