Few teams have the luxury of simply reloading during the spring in the transition from one year to the next like Alabama. Years of top-notch recruiting have allowed Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide to focus on restacking the deck rather than rebuilding on a regular basis. Alabama is still one of the betting favorites to win the SEC and will very likely be ranked highly in the preseason polls once again. Despite all of that, which has become the norm for the Tide under Saban, for the second straight spring Alabama will be faced with a question about the starting quarterback.
Who’s it going to be?
Among the candidates vying for the job of replacing Blake Sims starting this spring are Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell, Alec Morris and, yes, Jake Coker. Coker, a former transfer from Florida State, had many suspecting he would be the leading candidate for the starting job at Alabama last season, but Sims grabbed a firm hold of the job pretty early on and never let go. That worked out well for Alabama, Saban and new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. Now the work begins to find the next starting quarterback for the Tide. Could Coker come back and be the leading candidate for the job this spring?
You can also throw in freshman early enrollee Blake Barnett, one of the top quarterback recruits Saban has recruited to Alabama. Although Saban may have a knack for not giving control of the offense on the field to a true freshman, Barnett has been eager to get started with his preparation for the spring and show he is capable of handling the job. While he may be considered the future quarterback for the Crimson Tide, even he realizes he may have to wait for his time to come.
Saban, perhaps in typical Saban fashion, is not ruling it out the possibility Barnett steps in sooner than you might think.
“I wouldn’t rule that out at all,” Saban said recently, according to ESPN.com. “If he’s the best player, why would we not play him? That’s like saying a guy is from California, so we should not play him because he’s from California.”
There is no question Saban will put the players he feels give Alabama the best chance to succeed on the field at any position. If Barnett puts together a strong spring, then the conversation will not take long to heat up in Tuscaloosa. With the new College Football Playoff format in place, Alabama and any other top program has a little extra breathing room to allow for some experimentation, but Saban is not going to take long to stick to his gut when it comes time to making a quarterback decision and he will likely stick to it. It worked out with A.J. McCarron and it worked out with Sims.
So who’s next?