The kickoff for Alabama’s 2014 run at the inaugural college football playoff quickly approaches and with it the wild speculation as to who will lead the Tide to a shot at the national championship grows to a fever pitch. Like Twilight fangirls waiting for the final entry of the eye cancerous popular franchise, college football fans are excited to discover which quarterback will ultimately steal the heart of Nick Saban. Will it be the familiarity of the experienced senior Blake Sims? Or will it be the mysterious, nearly mythically hyped, Jake Coker.
David: Blake Sims will ultimately be the starter for Alabama in the opener against West Virginia. While it is difficult to predict if he has the ability to hold the starting position into SEC play, it’s safe to assume this will be #TeamBlake after the opening kickoff. Aside from a poor outing in the A-Day game, every piece of information that has leaked from practices and scrimmages from both the Spring and Fall has indicated Blake Sims has done everything he has needed to earn a starting nod. Even if one looks at the A-Day game as evidence of potential ineptitude, it is nearly irrefutable that his poor completion percentage was skewed due to several drops from the Bama wide receivers. Nick Saban himself even said the game plan used by Lane Kiffin was intentionally vanilla and didn’t fully utilize the skill set Blake Sims brings to the table. Sims also brings a couple of attributes Coker lacks that benefit the team early in the season. While Coker is notably mobile, Sims has a leg up on him, no pun intended, in that regard. With a young offensive line breaking in a new left tackle in freshman Cam Robinson and a couple of other pieces, it could prove very important for the future quarterback to be able to buy time with his feet and make throws outside the pocket. This combined with Blake Sims’ greater comfort level and confidence with the offense makes a compelling case for Sims getting the initial starting nod.
BILLY: Nick Saban may call him Jake, but I'm sticking with #TeamJacob considering the fact that we already have awesome t-shirts made. Kind of like in Twilight, I believe the mysterious intrigue of Jacob Coker — along with his killer arm strength and ability to glitter in the sun — will be too much for Saban to resist and will push him into the starting lineup. Granted, I will admit all signs point to Sims being the opening starter against West Virginia, but to be fair, Alabama could literally direct snap the ball to any of Yeldon/Henry/Drake and still score 35 points easily against the porous defense the Mountaineers will be wheeling into Atlanta. And while he may play a supporting role substituting in for the three games leading up to it, I believe by the time the Florida Gators roll into town on September 20th that Jacob Coker will be fully entrenched as the starting quarterback. Even if you ignore Sims' multitude of struggles in the spring game, Coker has probably the strongest arm in the SEC while still having the mobility to make plays out of the pocket and avoid pressure when needed. Coker at quarterback means Lane Kiffin can fully open up the playbook in a way that fully utilizes arguably the best collection of skill players in the country. In summation: more talent, better arm strength, expanded playbook, glitters in the sun. #TEAMJACOB
David: You raise some great points and if the praise of his seemingly transcendent abilities (minus the whole glittering in the sun thing) coming everywhere from West Virginia’s Clint Trickett to FSU Coach Jimbo Fisher are to be believed, his ceiling should dwarf that of Blake Sims. However, I believe this philosophy ignores much of what we've come to expect from Nick Saban coached teams. While the downfield passing game would certainly benefit from Coker’s NFL cannon of an arm, Saban’s teams have always been more driven by the quarterbacking intangibles. Including being poised in the pocket, making the right reads, distributing the ball with accuracy and timing, and of course bringing leadership to the field. Quotes from the man in the straw hat himself have indicated that Coker is not yet on Sims’ level when it comes to his confidence in the playbook and his accuracy and timing with the receivers. These faculties of the game can only be improved upon with experience, which Sims certainly has more of than Coker. As far as where this battle ends up when the Gator’s come to town, that’s something I can’t really venture to predict without seeing the two in action this Saturday. But I certainly don’t believe it is a foregone conclusion. If, however, the bright lights in Atlanta reduce one of the two passer’s play into ash—vampires, get it—we might get an answer very quickly.
Billy: So it turns out that it is Edward that glitters in the sun, and that Jacob is the one that turns into a wolf (which is a lot cooler anyways). I quickly watched all the Twilight Honest Trailers as a quick information boost, but all I really learned was that Kristen Stewart is a terrible actress and that "Three Way Stares" would be a great grunge cover band name. Anyways, if we just step back and ignore everything Saban has said — since everything he does and says has some deep, borderline-maniacal ulterior motive — and focus on the remaining evidence, it seems decently apparent that Coker is definitely the guy. Let's start off with the Jimbo Fisher connection. Fisher was the offensive coordinator for Nick Saban at LSU from 2000 to 2004, including the 2003 national championship team. When Fisher became the head coach of Florida State in 2010, he decided to model his program after Nick Saban's at Alabama. His goal was, in essence, to duplicate "The Process." As we can all see now it worked out well for Fisher having won a national championship last year. It's obvious how highly Fisher views Saban, and everything we have heard from Saban about Fisher showcases the strong relationship the two have. Coker coming to Alabama was in large part a byproduct of that relationship, and I think Saban knew exactly what he was getting with Coker from his personal talks with Fisher. Travis Haney has reported that privately to some friends Saban has said he thinks Coker could be the best quarterback he has ever had at Alabama. When ESPN went to visit Alabama's practice, the commentators spent most of the time marveling at Coker's arm strength and his ability to squeeze the ball in tight windows down field. And while Saban refuses to mention Coker much, don't you find it suspicious to the degree that he has hyped Sims and made Sims seem like the likely starter Saturday? To me it seems clear that Jacob Coker has stolen Saban's heart from the moment he committed to Alabama. Saban is just too methodical, safe, and practical to want to move away from Sims. Because while Saban has always been the micro-manager who prefers players who run his systems correctly and effectively, the two losses at the end of last year has made losing again not acceptable, and Saban will do anything he can to win a national championship this year. That is why Lane Kiffin is the offensive coordinator and why Coker will end up as the starter: they give Alabama the best chance to win a national championship this year.
David: I’m not sure if I believe that’s how you know so much about the Twilight saga but I’m glad you did your teen vampire research. I think ultimately we have a situation where Nick Saban appreciates the hard work of a senior and longtime backup who has earned the respect of his teammates. If one were to look at the situation through an SEConspiracist mindset and think Nick Saban is just playing the media to lower expectations for Jacob Coker, I think that person underestimates the implications such an action would have for both the locker room and the recruiting trail. By starting Blake Sims over Coker, Saban is essentially telling both potential players considering a transfer and high school players considering Alabama that hard work, good behavior, and patience can pay off, and that sometimes experience can trump potential talent. If Nick Saban were not to give Sims a legitimate shot to start, he may also create tension in the locker room and risk the team not fully buying into "the system". So when taking into account Saban’s offensive scheme, Sims' quarterbacking experience, and Saban’s masterful ability to manage the mindset of his teams, I think this is #TeamBlake all the way. At least till week four.
Billy: The decision facing Nick Saban in this quarterback battle is no different than the decision a consumer faces when a Starbucks opens up next to a local coffee shop. Everyone likes the local coffee shop; it has been there forever, it is very familiar within the culture and environment, and you know what you are getting from it. It does what is specializes in very well, and in reality it's the safe option that makes sense in the short-run. In fact, the idea of Starbucks coming in as a primary coffee option might even infuriate you. But as the Starbucks starts to become more ingrained in the community and more familiar with the customer base, it starts to become a very intriguing option. Word spreads around the town about how quick the service is, about how wide of a selection they have, and how much cheaper it is then the local coffee joint. But the local consumer still doesn't want to make the switch. There is a certain level of loyalty to the the place, especially considering it hasn't done anything wrong. It still even can offer a few things that Starbucks can't do as well. But unfortunately for that local coffee shop, eventually the local consumer goes to Starbucks and a few months later everyone forgets about that local coffee shop. That's what we have here in the Coker/Sims debate. It doesn't matter how much Sims may improve, how comfortable he is with the offense, or how good he may even play. Because at Alabama only a national championship is good enough, nothing else is acceptable. If the offensive line improves, the defense plays at a high level, and Kiffin is the offensive genius everyone says he is, then maybe Alabama can win it all with Sims. Maybe. With Coker at the helm though, if he lives up to even 80% of his potential then he could be the best quarterback Alabama has ever had. And that in itself is why Coker should and will end up as the starting quarterback by the time the Florida game rolls around. When it comes down to it, Starbucks will almost always beat out the local coffee shop.