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?
FIU announced on Sunday that former Panthers defensive back Emmanuel Lubin died in a car accident on Saturday night.
Lubinn (jumping, left) played in 45 games over four seasons for FIU, the most recent coming in 2018. He started all 13 games last season, collecting 31 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, one sack and four pass breakups. For his career, Lubin compiled 86 tackles, 11 pass breakups and one interception.
“Tragically, we lost a great young man in Emmanuel Lubin last night,” FIU head coach Butch Davis said. “He was a hard worker, great teammate and was respected and loved by his teammates, coaches and staff at FIU. His character, work ethic and leadership were instrumental in leading our program to success these past two seasons. Our football program is mourning his loss and we will honor Emmanuel every day moving forward. Our hearts and prayers go out to his friends and family.”
Added former teammate Tyree Johnson: “Anybody who knows you would never say anything bad on your name because you literally lit up any room you were in…I never told you this because I assumed you knew, but you made me the man I am today. If it wasn’t for you, I’ll still be the same Teejayy from four yeas (sic) ago.”
The North Miami Beach native was 22 years old.
The Portal is as mysterious as it is powerful. Some souls enter never to be heard of again, others are out as quickly as they entered. The Portal blesses whom it decides to bless, and it’s not for us humans to understand. All we know is The Portal must be questioned.
For instance, there’s the case of Kyler McMichael.
On Friday, the former 4-star recruit was a Clemson Tiger. By Saturday, he was a North Carolina Tar Heel.
Roughly 24 hours after announcing his intent to transfer, McMichael had announced his new destination. “Beyond blessed and grateful to be apart (sic) of such an amazing team last year at Clemson, however today I begin my next Chapter in life as I redirect my journey and travel to Chapel Hill, to the University of North Carolina and become a Tar Heel.”
McMichael didn’t make a major impact on Clemson’s national championship team, but that’s largely because he was a true freshman playing for the eventual national champions.
The Atlanta native played in 101 snaps according to his Clemson bio, which was still live as of this writing, spread across 12 games, where he made two tackles.
Barring a waiver, McMichael will sit out the 2019 season and compete for the Tar Heels as a redshirt sophomore in 2020.
There’s a new Guy on the team at Colorado.
On Saturday, former Nebraska linebacker Guy Thomas announced his commitment to Colorado. “I give thanks to everybody that has been influential, and supportive in my life,” Nyon said in a graphic posted to his Twitter account. “I am taking this time to announce that I will be committing to the University of Colorado.”
Thomas first announced his transfer back in November; he appeared in just four games over two years on the club. He posted four tackles in as many games as a redshirt freshman in 2018, with three coming against FCS Bethune-Cookman.
“It’s not working out,” Thomas told the Omaha World-Herald upon his transfer.
Barring a waiver, Thomas will have to sit out the 2019 season and compete as a redshirt junior in 2020. He figures to contribute as a pass-rushing outside linebacker whenever he is cleared to play.
Michigan does not open training camp until Aug. 2 and does not play its first game until Aug. 31, so any “as of right now” statements are devoid of 20-odd practices worth of context.
Still, as of Big Ten media days, Jim Harbaugh plans to play both Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey in every game.
“Yeah, I do (see games where they’ll both play). Where it stands right now, and that could change later or not, is I see them both playing,” Harbaugh told the Detroit Free Press. “Where it stands right now, I see it as maybe redefining what a starter is…. I’m really not talking about playing them both at the same time (on a play), when I say both in games it’d be they’re both playing quarterback during the same game. And in the way it stands now, in every game.”
Harbaugh has been a one-quarterback man for the entirety of his career, but Patterson’s inconsistency and McCaffrey’s talent may demand a change. Michigan did juggle quarterbacks in 2017 — John O’Korn, Brandon Peters and Wilton Speight each threw at least 81 passes — but that was due to necessity, not strategy.
Patterson completed 64.6 percent of his passes last season for 2,600 yards (on 8.0 per attempt) with 22 touchdowns against seven interceptions while rushing 76 times for 273 yards and two touchdowns. In his second year in the program, McCaffrey completed 8-of-15 passes for 126 yards with two touchdowns whilst rushing 10 times for 99 yards and a touchdown.
The son of Ed McCaffrey and brother of Christian McCaffrey is certainly the heir apparent in Ann Arbor, and it appears Harbaugh isn’t willing to wait for the future to arrive in order to unleash arguably his most talented quarterback recruit since Andrew Luck.