That isn’t a slight breeze you felt over the weekend when you stepped outside, it was Alabama quarterback Jake Coker.
Coker should be breathing a sigh of relief, after Alabama announced over the weekend that offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will return for a second year in Tuscaloosa. Kiffin, now entering his second season with the Crimson Tide, had been mentioned as the front-runner for the same role with the San Francisco 49ers by ESPN.com.
“This time of year, there are lots of things out there regarding other coaching opportunities, but I want to reaffirm my commitment to the University of Alabama, Coach [Nick] Saban, and our team,” Saban said in a statement. “I’m excited about what our offensive staff was able to accomplish last year, but I also think there are a lot of things we can do a better job of in terms of putting our players in the best situation to have success.”
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Alabama QB Jake Coker
Coker is one of those players.
The rising senior for the Crimson Tide came to Alabama last summer after graduating from Florida State, and was expected to take over the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. Instead, Blake Sims took control and took Alabama to the SEC title and the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Coker, though, was in the mix to win first-team snaps as late as the third game of the 2014 season.
Of the quarterbacks vying for the starting job this season—Coker, Alec Morris, Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell and Blake Barnett—Coker is the most familiar with what Kiffin wants to do and what he expects from his quarterbacks.
As Matt Hayes of SportingNews.com points out, that’s enormous for Coker.
Lane Kiffin will return to Alabama next season. Huge news for QB Jacob Coker.
— Matt Hayes (@Matt_HayesSN) January 24, 2015
A clean slate is the last thing that Coker needed. Last season’s battle that lasted into September gave him a head start on this offseason’s battle, and Kiffin’s return allows him to take full advantage.
“Our offense was extremely productive last season and we look forward to building on some of the good things we did on that side of the ball with this year’s team,” Saban said in Alabama’s statement.
What’s more, many of the receivers working with Coker this offseason will be players he’s familiar with.
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Alabama QB Jake Coker
Alabama’s top three wide receivers from last season—Amari Cooper, DeAndrew White and Christion Jones—are all gone, as are running back T.J. Yeldon and three starting offensive linemen. For the most part, Coker will begin his quest to win the starting job at Alabama with a cast of characters he’s familiar with.
Cam Sims, ArDarius Stewart, Robert Foster and Chris Black were all able to build a rapport with Coker last season, and that familiarity should allow Coker to hit the ground running this offseason rather than adjusting on the fly, as he did last summer.
There’s no denying Coker‘s arm strength. Here’s Coker slinging it 60 yards with ease without warming up too much prior to the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game vs. West Virginia.
The question was whether or not he can play within an offense. Now that the offense won’t change, the things Kiffin taught him all offseason will be applicable to the current quarterback battle, and the experience he gained as a junior at the Capstone will benefit him as a senior.
He didn’t earn the chance to live up to what, in retrospect, was insurmountable hype in 2014.
Kiffin’s return allows him the chance to do it in 2015.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.
Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.