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Alabama QB Jacob Coker draws praise from two Tide receivers

Phil Sears/Associated Press
QB Jacob Coker hasn't been named Alabama's starter yet, but his teammates have been impressed so far.

Alabama quarterback Jacob Coker hasn't thrown an important pass in a football game since 2010, when he was a high school senior.

Coker hasn't even practiced with the Crimson Tide, as he arrived in Tuscaloosa in May -- after spring practice was over -- following a transfer from Florida State.


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But that hasn't stopped some of his teammates from thinking big.

"He definitely has sparks that he brings to the table that's shown that he can be one of the greatest quarterbacks to play here," wide receiver Christion Jones told the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser.

Coker (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) will head into the season carrying as much hype as any quarterback not named Winston, Miller, Mariota, Hundley or Petty. Florida State coaches were effusive in their praise of Coker when he transferred -- Jimbo Fisher, for one, said Coker would be a talent upgrade at quarterback for the Tide -- and conventional wisdom is that he will step immediately into the starting lineup.

That he attended the same high school -- Mobile (Ala.) St. Paul's Episcopal School -- as AJ McCarron has only fanned the hype flames. And to further the McCarron comparisons, Coker and McCarron have the same private quarterback coach (Mobile-based David Morris).

"He looks great, strong arm," Tide star wide receiver Amari Cooper told the Advertiser. "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."

Jones said he has been impressed with Coker's preparation: "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."

Alabama coach Nick Saban, though, is pumping the brakes on the hype train.

"Jake Coker has the opportunity to come in and compete for the position," Saban said at SEC Media Days. "Blake Sims has been competing for the position. Really did a pretty good job in the spring. Didn't play great in the spring game, but we really didn't do the things that he's capable of doing.

"So there's going to be a competition there. ... We really can't make that decision or prediction as to what's going to happen at that position, but the development of that position, regardless of who the player is, is going to be critical to the success of our team."

Coker has a strong arm but also is mobile; he ran a Wing-T offense in high school until St. Paul's switched to a pro set in his senior season. He redshirted at FSU as a true freshman in 2011, played in four games and threw five passes as a redshirt freshman in '12, then played in seven games last season before suffering a knee injury. He was 18 of 36 for 250 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception for the Seminoles last season. With Heisman winner Jameis Winston (also an Alabama native) ahead of him on the depth chart, Coker decided to transfer. He graduated in May from FSU, then moved on to Alabama.

Winston also thinks highly of Coker. "Me, personally, I think Jacob can go anywhere and start in any program," he said in January.

Alabama didn't recruit Coker out of high school. The offensive scheme change limited his recruitment, and Florida State was his only true "big school" offer; he chose FSU over Arkansas State, Duke, Mississippi State and hometown South Alabama.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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