Knocked around. Roughed up. Picked apart. Battered. Jake Coker has experienced a good bit of that this season as Alabama's primary starting quarterback. And most of that abuse has come off the field.
Coker can't do this. Coker can't do that. Coker struggles with this. Coker struggles with that. When people talk about how good this 2015 Alabama team is, the quarterback position is not normally included.
Coker is the guy Alabama is stuck with at quarterback. Because Blake Sims graduated. Because Everett Golson picked Florida State. Because Blake Barnett isn't ready yet. Because Cooper Bateman and Alec Morris don't have strong throwing arms.
It's like, yes, Coker is Alabama's quarterback this season. But only by default.
The cries are everywhere. Run the ball! People want to see handoffs from Coker. Not passes.
The second-year Florida State transfer, who's thrown for 786 yards and eight touchdowns to go along with four picks, seemed to win over his teammates with his gutsy, inspiring performance off the bench against Ole Miss a couple of weeks ago. Many media members and fans also were impressed by Coker's competitive character in that defeat, but that hasn't seemed to alleviate their concerns regarding his play going forward.
This afternoon Coker and No. 13 Alabama will face their biggest challenge of the season thus far when they square off against No. 8 — and favored — Georgia. For Coker, who has a QBR right now of 123.92, which puts him 10th among SEC quarterbacks, it will be his first true road test of the season. For Nick Saban? He just wants all Alabama fans to be fully behind Coker and the rest of the Crimson Tide players this afternoon.
"I wish everybody would support our team to be the best team that they can be," the Alabama head coach said Thursday night. "When we get a lot of negative noise, when we get a lot of criticism, when we get a lot of disappointed, disgruntled people, I think it affects our players.
"I think that it's important that our fans really support these players. When you have a new quarterback — this is gonna be the first game he's had really on the road — we've got to be supportive of him, and he's got to make good decisions and take what the defense gives. But the more positive that people are around, the more positive energy you have, the more confidence people create, that's how you get what you want."
Seems ever since that turnover-plagued loss to Ole Miss a lot of folks have lost faith in this Alabama team. They worry about the chinks in the armor. They fret over Coker and the quarterback position. They fear more losses coming Alabama's way. They wonder if the Tide's run of dominance is coming to an end.
Saban, for one, is not down on this team. Or Coker. At all.
"I like this team," Alabama's ninth-year head coach said. "I like our team. I know that they haven't always done things perfectly so far this year. But I really like our team, and I like the way the team has responded to the Ole Miss loss and the way they've approached this week.
"I'd love for this team to have success in this game. I think this team needs to have success. This team has worked hard. I think they really feel like maybe they didn't do things the right way in the Ole Miss game, and this is an opportunity to show that they can do it better."
Probably no Alabama player wants to 'do it better' today any more than Coker. If he does, and if he can lead the Tide to an upset win over Georgia, maybe then folks will stop viewing the Tide's quarterback spot as one of the team's weak links.
— Written by Erik Stinnett, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Stinnett is an experienced college football beat writer who has been covering Alabama since 2009.