5. Jacob Coker, Alabama (JR) Despite not taking a snap in an Alabama uniform until this summer, all signs point to Coker as the frontrunner to replace AJ McCarron in Tuscaloosa. Coker graduated from Florida State this spring, and with Jameis Winston entrenched as the starter, he decided to transfer and play immediately at another school. In two years as a backup with the Seminoles, Coker threw for 295 yards and one touchdown on 21 completions. The Alabama native isn’t short on all of the physical attributes coaches are looking for in a quarterback. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Coker is ready to handle the rigors of the SEC. Despite the lack of overall experience, Coker has the talent to make an instant impact at Alabama. And if he fails to claim the No. 1 spot on the depth chart, look for Blake Sims or Cooper Bateman to start in the opener against West Virginia.
Blake Sims has to be the most fired-up player on this team. Nobody in the country is giving him a legitimate shot of winning this quarterback competition. He may well end up as the backup this year, but I imagine no one will be hungrier than him going into fall camp.
Of course, that's not to say he's the only one coming to the competition hungry...
"Yeah ... I mean, hell yeah," he says. "It wasn't a good feeling at all. I was there for three years, but I'd been working toward a goal like that ever since I started playing football."
His team won the national championship, but it didn't feel like it was his. He played only a handful of games, injuring his knee in Week 9 against Wake Forest before spending the rest of the season on crutches. He wanted to make a difference, but ultimately he couldn't do more than cheer from the sideline.
Put simply: He isn't transferring to Alabama to be a backup. He's always wanted to be The Guy. All he's needed was an opportunity. Everyone at Florida State knew he was special. Seminoles quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders said he was "probably the best I've seen in 25 years at throwing it." But Sanders and the staff couldn't ignore Famous Jameis. He had the nickname and the pedigree. Coker made the race close, but they sided with potential.
"Let's be honest," Coker says, "You don't go to school to sit on the bench and high-five everybody. I'm more than appreciative of the whole situation [at FSU]. But heck, if I wanted to do that again, if I wanted to sit the bench, I would have stayed there. "I'm leaving for a reason."
Man, I'm ready to see this kid in crimson.
Dareus, who is entering his fourth year with the Buffalo Bills, was on the field and yucking it up with Alabama's defensive linemen during Thursday's practice. With his old coach Bo Davis back in the fold, Dareus felt more than comfortable offering up his critiques as the Crimson Tide worked on rip moves.
At one point, Davis looked over at Dareus and said, "They ain't made it yet."
Well, that sucks. Even in the face of absurd expectations, we really need this unit to shine. Hopefully Coach Davis can get these boys coached up and they'll be the line of monsters we all hope they'll be.
Alabama running backs Altee Tenpenny and Kenyan Drake missed Thursday's practice because they "didn't do what they were supposed to do in school this week," coach Nick Saban said. Instead, they spent their time at "study table."
"If they don't stay over there for four hours, they probably won't play in the spring game," Saban said. "I'd rather do it now than during the season."
Jiminy Flipping Crickets. I wonder if Drake wouldn't be our starting running back if not for a bevy of silly off-the-field stories like this. At any rate, setbacks like this will all but assure that Derrick Henry will be our number 2 guy for the foreseeable future. Hopefully, Drake can keep everything straight, because he has too much talent to spend the season on the sideline.
This group has three returning starters, all of whom were new to that title last fall. Left guard Arie Kouandjio, center Ryan Kelly and right tackle Austin Shepherd bring some continuity to the group that struggled with that at times in 2013.
Call for backup
Senior Leon Brown continues to emerge as a solid option at right guard. A JUCO transfer, he didn't see much time until starting at RG in the Sugar Bowl. Originally a left tackle backup, Brown is one of the bigger interior linemen around at 6-6, 320 pounds.
Without a doubt, the offensive line will be one of the most watched/scrutinized units on the field tomorrow. Here's to hoping for solid returns.
Alabama has one of the surest things in the nation on punt and kick returns in senior Christion Jones. Last year, he averaged 14 yards per punt return and took two to the house while coming close to 29 yards per kick return and added another touchdown.
Call for backup
It's the Adam Griffith Show now on kickoffs and field goals. The third-year sophomore has a big leg but needs to work on his accuracy and consistency. He can punt, too.
This has been one of the less discussed areas of the 2014 team, but we have some huge question marks here. I'll be looking forward to seeing Griffith take a few kicks, and I will be curious to see what our punting looks like. We signed a punter this February (JK Scott), but he won't be on campus until the summer. So who might be back there helping out with punting duties? That's right, fourth string quarterback Alec Morris. Yeesh.
The Ravens, who have owned the contractual rights to McClain since he announced his surprise retirement last year, did not release an official comment about the move, which was reported on the NFL's transactions list.
It could mean one of two things: Either the Ravens are clearing McClain to begin working out with the team Monday or they're preparing to release him.
My gut says a release is forthcoming. Following a bad workout, McClain offered some excuses for poor performance, when promises of future hard work would've probably served him better. At any rate, we hope he finishes his degree, and manages to work his way back into the NFL, if that's what he wants.
On the way back to Tuscaloosa after Alabama’s humbling 45-31 loss to Oklahoma in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, the junior safety replayed the nauseating moments from a game in which the Crimson Tide, which entered the contest with the SEC’s top-ranked defense, surrendered 429 yards of offense, nearly 6 yards per play, 348 passing yards and four passing touchdowns.
Collins called the performance by the defense “disgraceful” to Alabama football.
“We weren’t the defense that we always used to be,” Collins told ESPN.com in early April. “That’s what we’re working on this spring.”
Landon Collins Interview:
Nick Saban Press Conference: