Jacob Coker

Nick Saban thinks he will start Jacob Coker at QB this week

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Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is unsure who should be his starting quarterback heading into this weekend’s game against Western Michigan. Alabama’s Nick Saban may be slightly more definitive in his quarterback decision this week. On Monday Saban showed signs of leaning toward Jacob Coker to be the Tide’s QB1 when they look to bounce back after a home loss to Ole Miss.

“At this point, providing he does the things he has to do, I think we’ll start him in this game,” Saban said Monday, per Al.com.

Saban started freshman Cooper Bateman this past weekend against Ole Miss, although Saban eventually replaced him with Coker. Was Saban out-thinking himself starting Bateman instead of Coker against Ole Miss? Would the game have gone any differently if Coker started the game? Probably not, since neither quarterback would be playing defense or special teams for the Tide.

No matter which player ends up playing quarterback for Alabama, Saban should see his team pick up a win this weekend. Alabama hosts Louisiana-Monroe. Of course, Saban is 0-1 against the Warhawks since he was hired to be Alabama’s head coach. ULM upset Alabama by a score of 21-14 in 2007, Saban’s first season as Alabama’s head coach. The two schools have not faced each other since 2007.

Time for Alabama and Ohio State to stop the QB shuffle

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After three weeks of the college football season, it is time for two of the game’s highest paid and most successful coaches to make the most important decision any coach can make and name a starting quarterback. That Urban Meyer and Nick Saban have allowed the quarterback question linger this long is not necessarily surprising, but it is puzzling.

Ohio State’s offense looked fascinating in Week 1 against Virginia Tech, but since then the entire offense has struggled to get in its groove. On Saturday Meyer started Cardale Jones, only to switch things up in the second half with J.T. Barrett. Neither quarterback, surprisingly, was tremendously effective against Northern Illinois. On this day, it did not come back to bite Ohio State with a loss, but Meyer is a smart enough coach who has been around long enough to understand the value and importance of having one single quarterback that is clearly the one to run the offense. This year’s situation is a tad unprecedented, but the time has come for Meyer to gain control of the offense and make clear who the number one passer is going to be.

Ohio State may not have been bitten with a loss while figuring out its quarterback situation. Alabama on the other hand, is now behind the eight-ball. Saban started off a key SEC West game against Ole Miss sending freshman Cooper Bateman to the field to lead the offense at the beginning of the night. As the Crimson Tide dug a hole, Saban switched to Jacob Coker, he who could not win the starting job a year ago and once fell shy of the starting job at Florida State behind Jameis Winston. Coker may not have had a good night with his pass completion percentage, but he was on the field to lead Alabama’s late rally that fell short of avoiding a home upset to Ole Miss. He did show enough to be Alabama’s full time quarterback moving forward tough, and it is time for Saban to make that call.

Meyer admitted in his postgame press conference it may be time to settle down on quarterback moving forward. Saban will be getting there as well. The good news is it is not too late to make that call at either school. Ohio State remains undefeated and Alabama can move forward with the confidence a one-loss champion in the SEC still has a good shot to reach the playoff.

Make the decisions Meyer and Saban. Put it to rest today.

The demise of the SEC West has been greatly exaggerated

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Last year’s bowl results seemed to crack the invincible shield of the SEC West. College football’s toughest division was 2-5 in bowl games, including Alabama’s loss to eventual national champion Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl semifinal of the College Football Playoff. LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Auburn all took losses as well, with Arkansas and Texas A&M scoring the only two wins for the vaunted division in postseason play. Suddenly the SEC critics came out in full force in an attempt to shred the SEC aura like a piece of tissue paper. How did the SEC West respond?

Alabama was the headliner in Week 1 with a decisive victory over Wisconsin in Arlington, Texas. The Crimson Tide dominated the running game against the Badgers, who played their first game with Paul Chryst as the head coach. The coaching match-up was a complete mismatch, as was the match-up in the trenches. Alabama rolled up 238 rushing yards while holding the usually strong running Badgers to just 40 yards. Alabama seemed to solve its question at quarterback just fine by having Jacob Coker complete 15 of 21 pass attempts for 213 yards and a touchdown. Nick Saban always seems to have his quarterback situation under control, even when it is a significant unknown. We’ll see if that holds up, but this was a great way for the Crimson Tide to start the year after the way the last one ended.

Auburn showed off a new defense that looked good early on but had to hang on against Louisville in the other spotlight game for the SEC West. Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson showed plenty of room for improvement at quarterback, but they still hung on to secure a season-opening win against a team that could play one of the toughest defense sin the ACC in 2015. In Houston, Texas A&M showed off some good defensive improvement with a 38-17 victory over Arizona State (my preseason Pac-12 South favorite). That is three neutral site victories for the SEC West against power conference opponents from the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC. Not too shabby for the overrated SEC West in Week 1. And I didn’t even mention Arkansas and their 48-13 victory over UTEP.

Blowout victories over FCS schools should rarely, if ever, receive praise in college football. Especially when that FBS team piling on the points is a top 20 team returning about as much experience and skill as it ever has. Ole Miss blasted Tennessee-Martin by a final score of 76-3 and they held back no punches. New starting quarterback Chad Kelly had 211 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns in his debut for the Rebels. Defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche even scored a touchdown reception in the second quarter, and this wasn’t some dink and dunk down by the goal line. It was a 31-yard play to put the Rebels up 34-0 minutes into the second quarter. No bonus points are awarded for a win over an FCS squad, but Ole Miss showed some glimpses of what to scout and look for from them this season. LSU’s season opener against McNeese State was canceled due to weather shortly after kickoff. Hey, the Tigers looked good for four minutes!

Mississippi State was in a tussle on the road at Southern Miss, but managed to outscore the Eagles 20-6 after halftime to pull away for the win despite replacing a ton of players. Dak Prescott passed for 237 yards and two touchdowns and led the Bulldogs on the ground with 72 rushing yards and another touchdown.

The SEC West will remain one of the top divisions in college football, no matter how much you might want to think otherwise. It will be what they do in the postseason that matters most though.

Pair of defensive starters likely out for all of Alabama’s spring

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After Alabama wrapped up its first practice of the spring Friday, Alabama head coach Nick Saban offered up a few updates regarding his squad, including the health of a couple of key contributors.

According to Saban, neither cornerback Cyrus Jones nor linebacker Denzel Devall are expected to participate in any of the 15 spring practice sessions due to injury. The former is dealing with a hip cartilage issue, while the latter is still recovering from offseason ankle surgery.

Both of the defensive starters are expected to be 100-percent healthy for the start of summer camp in early August.

In addition to Devall and Jones, Saban stated that offensive lineman Grant Hill is out because of what he described as a “medical leave.”

The Tide also took the first official step in finding a new starting quarterback for the second year in a row, with al.com writing that “Jacob Coker led the quarterback line followed by Alec Morris, Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell and freshman Blake Barnett.” According to Saban, there is no current depth chart, so the signal-calling pecking order is to be determined. That could very well be the case exiting the spring, although Coker is the presumptive favorite, if for nothing more than his edge in experience over the other competitors.

While the Tide kicked off spring practice Friday, they will go on hiatus until March 23 as the university will be on spring break the next 10 days.

Unitas Award whittles watch list from 27 to 15

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With the first five weeks of the 2014 season in the books, one major college football award has downsized its original preseason watch list.

Wednesday, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award announced that it had trimmed its watch list down to 15 quarterbacks from the 27 that appeared on it in the preseason. Among those still included on the in-season list are 2013 semifinalists Sean Mannion of Oregon State and Marcus Mariota of Oregon.

Another semifinalist from last year, Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly, was not included in the update. Kelly has been dealing with an injury that’s already knocked him out of one game and will sideline him for at least one more.

It’s at this point in the program where we compelled to remind you that the Unitas is given annually to the nation’s top senior (eligibility-wise or academically) at the quarterback position, so don’t freak out because (Player X) isn’t listed.

The Pac-12 continues to lead all conference with six players. The Big Ten and SEC, with two apiece, are the only other leagues with more than one.

Along with Kelly, here’s the remaining dozen quarterbacks no longer listed by the Unitas: Maryland’s C.J. Brown, Alabama’s Jacob Coker, Florida’s Jeff Driskel, Michigan’s Devin Gardner, Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson, Prairie View A&M’s Jerry Lovelocke, Georgia’s Hutson Mason, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, Northwestern’s Trevor Siemian, Oklahoma State’s J.W. Walsh and Kansas State’s Jake Waters.

Below is the 15-player strong Unitas Award watch list:

Anthony Boone, Duke
Shane Carden, East Carolina
Rakeem Cato, Marshall
Connor Cook, Michigan State
Cody Fajardo, Nevada
Connor Halliday, Washington State
Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Brett Hundley, UCLA
Cody Kessler, USC
Sean Mannion, Oregon State
Marcus Mariota, Oregon
Bryce Petty, Baylor
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Jake Rudock, Iowa
Bo Wallace, Ole Miss