TUSCALOOSA — Nick Saban has tried to quiet the rumblings, but so far, he’s been unsuccessful.
Dating back to when the transfer rumors began to swirl, the media, fans and everyone else tabbed Jacob Coker as the next Crimson Tide quarterback. This, despite the fact there is still an active competition for the right to replace three-year starter AJ McCarron.
“That’s really not internally the perception by me, our staff or our players,” Saban said. “Jake Coker has the opportunity to come in and compete for the position. Blake Sims has been competing for the position. Really did a pretty good job in the spring. Didn’t play great in the spring game, but we really didn’t do the things that he’s capable of doing. So there’s going to be a competition there, as well as some of the younger players will be involved in that competition.”
Coker hasn’t even put on pads at Alabama, but he’s been named to two watch lists for prestigious college football awards. Most recently, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award tabbed Coker as a player to watch. He was also one of 76 players named to the Maxwell Award watch list earlier this month.
So what’s with all the hype?
“He definitely has sparks that he brings to the table that’s shown that he can be one of the greatest quarterbacks to play here,” wide receiver Christion Jones said of Coker. “But I can also say all our quarterbacks show those sparks at moments that they can be that quarterback. It’s just going to be all about being consistent and coming out every day and competing and being consistent with your performance.”
Off the field, Jones described Coker as a “cool guy” who’s “laid back” and still a bit “shy” because he’s only been in the program for three months. Jones said Coker isn’t a vocal leader yet because he’s still learning the plays. Jones praised Coker for his willingness to ask questions in order to get better.
“He’s done a great job competing, doing everything that coach has asked him to do,” Jones said. “He’s paying attention to detail and what his reads are. Even off the field, he’s rehabbing, getting his body right, getting everything he needs to do done. He’s just a mature player. Coming from Florida State, he understands the level of competition that he’s going against.”
Coker certainly has all the tools to be successful. There’s his 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame. There’s also his arm strength, which wide receiver Amari Cooper said he initially underestimated.
“He overthrew me a couple of times, but I would say I wasn’t expecting it,” Cooper said.
While acknowledging it can be “pretty difficult” for a new quarterback to gain chemistry with receivers, Cooper said Coker’s experience helps and that he has a “huge upside to him.”
“He looks great, strong arm,” Cooper said. “Takes command in the huddle, which I think is very important. You can tell he’s experienced. I’m ready to see how he progresses in fall camp.”
Sports Writer Marq Burnett: On Twitter @Marq_Burnett.