Blake Sims starts slow in final audition before Jacob Coker arrives
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The last two Alabama quarterbacks couldn’t be missed in Tuscaloosa for the spring game. Greg McElroy spent time with the ESPNU broadcast crew, and AJ McCarron marked his spot in the Walk of Fame in a pregame ceremony.
The next Alabama quarterback, though, could soon be back in Tallahassee, Fla.
The Crimson Tide finished spring practice with an offensively challenged scrimmage that ended in a 17-13 win for the White team, which comprised the first-string players on defense.
While Alabama coach Nick Saban noted the limitations now-first-string quarterback Blake Sims faced in a spring game situation, a 6-5, 235-pound shadow in the form of Jacob Coker will loom over the offense until the fall.
Sims, a 6-foot senior who backed up McCarron the last two seasons, distanced himself in the quarterback race in the spring. In a spring game with a limited offensive playbook, Sims was 13-of-30 for 178 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
The performance of the offense, which included 15 punts and six turnovers, wasn’t enough to stop anyone from wondering what Coker could bring to the table.
Coker lost a competition with eventual Heisman winner Jameis Winston before last season and will finish his undergraduate degree at Florida State to become eligible immediately at Alabama. During his spring break, the Mobile, Ala., native working out and studying in Tuscaloosa. He returned Saturday to observe the spring game.
The scrimmage shouldn’t be an indictment on Sims, even if he did struggle with the two turnovers and passes bounced off his receivers. On the pick six, Saban said freshman Cam Robinson, running with the first team offense, contributed to the pick by blocking the wrong player on a screen.
“The game (sped) up today, and (Sims) tried to speed up with it rather than stay in his rhythm,” Saban said. “There are a lot of things Blake can do as a quarterback that we didn’t do today.”
Through the spring, Saban praised Sims’ command of the offense, and Sims eventually secured himself as the best quarterback in camp, beating out Cooper Bateman and Alec Morris.
Saturday appeared to be an aberration.
Neither Alabama squad scored an offensive touchdown for the first 38:27 when T.J. Yeldon rushed for a one-yard score. And even that came with a caveat — backup tailback Kenyan Drake, on the opposing White team, fumbled to set up a seven-yard scoring drive for the Crimson.
Until then, Alabama’s offense had been operating in the red. Sims threw an interception returned for a touchdown earlier in the third quarter.
Not since 2011 has Alabama had a quarterback competition. That's when when McCarron beat out Phillip Sims by the second game of the season. Now, Alabama coaches will have to wait until fall to get a complete picture for 2014.
That Sims and Coker are competing for the same job is not lost on the quarterback who was able to play during the spring.
“Blake knows this and Blake embraced (Coker) before the game,” Saban said. “They’re going to compete through the summer and fall camp.”