Jacob Coker has some big shoes to fill in Tuscaloosa this year. The 2014 transfer is looking to replace Alabama legend AJ McCarron, who won two NCAA championships as the team’s starting quarterback and a third as a redshirt freshman.
Coker comes from Florida State, where he lost a tightly contested quarterback battle with eventual Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston just prior to the 2013 season.
This year, Coker will enter another quarterback battle, highlighted perfectly by Bleacher Report’s SEC lead writer, Barrett Sallee.
The eyes of the nation will be on Coker, and how he’s able to handle the added attention could ultimately help decide his future with Alabama.
Despite all the controversy surrounding Alabama’s quarterback competition, there are a few reasons to believe that Coker will succeed, win the starting job and adequately replace McCarron, beginning with his impressive skill set.
Coker has good footwork, a solid arm and a great mind for the position. According to TideSports.com’s D.C. Reeves, Coker received high praise from his former head coach, Jimbo Fisher.
Fisher was noted as having said this about his former backup quarterback:
“Including what they’ve had, he’s much more talented than anything they’ve had,” he said. “I don’t mean to discredit the previous guys, they were all great. But this guy is extremely talented. Arm and mind.”
Coker‘s arm is his carrying card, and he put it on display in a recent video that’s starting to make some waves on YouTube.
Though the throw in the video was a bit high, Coker displayed solid footwork and—even more impressively—an arm that is capable of stretching the field. Coker attempted just 41 passes in his time with the Seminoles, but, in that time, averaged over 14 yards per completion.
Coker is also a great athlete. With a stout, 6’5″, 230-pound build, it’s impressive to see him get out and run. In the same Tide Sports interview, Fisher praised Coker for his athleticism and his willingness to take hits and be a physical runner.
Natural Leader and Hard Worker
One of the most important parts of being a top-tier quarterback is leadership ability. This is even more true at Alabama, where high expectations and its perennial status as a top contender are major factors.
McCarron displayed an ability to work with his wideouts and also had five years at the program to develop relationships with those players. Coker will not have the same opportunities that McCarron did to build those relationships over time, as the team needs him in top form by the time it opens the season against West Virginia.
What Coker does have, however, is innate leadership capabilities.
According to Marq Burnett of USA Today, star wide receiver Amari Cooper stated that Coker looked great and “takes command in the huddle, which I think is very important. You can tell he’s experienced. I’m ready to see how he progresses in fall camp.”
Coker also received high praise from his teammates in regards to his work ethic.
In the same piece, receiver Christion Jones had this to say of Coker and what he’s shown him thus far:
He’s done a great job competing, doing everything that coach has asked him to do. He’s paying attention to detail and what his reads are. Even off the field, he’s rehabbing, getting his body right, getting everything he needs to do done. He’s just a mature player. Coming from Florida State, he understands the level of competition that he’s going against.
Coker has done a wonderful job of winning over his teammates and has displayed the work ethic and leadership qualities necessary to replace McCarron.
Weapons, Weapons, Weapons
Fisher heaped praise upon Coker, but the young quarterback has an opportunity to really thrive in an offense that’s absolutely loaded with top-tier talents.
Assuming he wins the starting job, Coker will throw to the likes of Cooper, tight end O.J. Howard and wide receivers DeAndrew White and Robert Foster.
The trio of Cooper, Howard and White combined for 1,539 receiving yards last season, as well as 10 of the team’s 30 receiving touchdowns.
The group accounted for over 47 percent of Crimson Tide receiving yards and 30 percent of their receiving touchdowns. With another year of experience under their belts, as well as a new offensive scheme thanks to the addition of Lane Kiffin as the team’s offensive coordinator, the offense could be poised to break out as the best in the SEC.
With this group of standout pass-catchers, Coker should have little difficulty stepping in and becoming an impact player.
That group alone is impressive. Then you have to account for Foster, a redshirt freshman who ranked as the No. 2 wide receiver in the class of 2013, per 247Sports’ composite rankings. Foster made some noise in Alabama’s spring game and impressed the likes of Bleacher Report’s lead college football writer, Michael Felder, who highlighted his accomplishments in the video above.
All of these players should figure heavily into the team’s play-calling efforts, and they’ll help make Coker‘s job that much easier.
The offense has a lot of potential, but the defense is also going to help take some pressure off Coker. The group ranked as the No. 1 defensive unit in the country in regards to total defense, and they’ve only added to it over the last two seasons, posting the No. 1 recruiting class, according to ESPN.com, for both the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
All stats courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.