Nick Saban: QB competition for Bama

Updated: July 17, 2014, 3:14 PM ET
By Alex Scarborough | ESPN.com

HOOVER, Ala. -- Most everyone has made up their minds that Jacob Coker will indeed be Alabama's next starting quarterback.

But the one person whose opinion matters -- coach Nick Saban -- hasn't decided on anything quite yet.

[+] EnlargeJacob Coker
Jeff Gammons/Getty ImagesFormer Florida State quarterback Jacob Coker is considered the front-runner to replace AJ McCarron as Alabama's starter under center.

"That's really not internally the perception by me, our staff or our players," Saban said Thursday. "Jake Coker has the opportunity to come in and compete for the position.

"Blake Sims has been competing for the position. He really did a pretty good job in the spring. He didn't play great in the spring game, but we really didn't do the things that he's capable of doing."

Coker transferred to Alabama this spring after graduating from Florida State, where he backed up Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston last season. In his career, Coker has completed only 21 passes for 275 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

But considering Alabama's incumbent quarterbacks' failures in the spring game -- Sims, in particular, threw two interceptions -- the court of public opinion has clearly dubbed Coker the next big thing. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, he looks the part. And considering all the positive things his former coaches have said about his talent, it's no wonder the hype has been overwhelming.

"He's probably the best I've seen in 25 years at throwing it," Florida State quarterback coach Randy Sanders said earlier this year.

Saban, however, insists that there is no clear front-runner to replace former Alabama great AJ McCarron -- not yet.

"There's going to be a competition there, as well as some of the younger players will be involved in that competition," Saban said. "We really can't make that decision or prediction as to what's going to happen at that position, but the development of that position, regardless of who the player is, is going to be critical to the success of our team."

One thing Coker does have on his side is that he's not a young pup. Unlike most rookies that must learn the ropes of college life, Coker is a redshirt junior with plenty of time in a program at Florida State that's much like Alabama's.

"There's a process that any player has to go through in any system to be able to play effectively," Saban said. "No matter how much you want to speed up the process, you still have to do it and it takes time.

"But an older player who has more knowledge and experience can relate and probably do it more quickly than a younger player because he's been through a college system, and one [at FSU] that's not so dissimilar to ours because we still do a lot of the same things."

Alex Scarborough | email

Alabama/SEC reporter

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