Pump the brakes on the Jacob Coker hype.
The highly touted Alabama quarterback transfer from Florida State might be on the bench Saturday when the Crimson Tide opens the season against West Virginia, even though his coach at FSU said he would be a high NFL draft pick and an upgrade over two-time national champion AJ McCarron.
Alabama coach Nick Saban said on Monday that he has yet to decide if it will be Coker or fifth-year senior Blake Sims who gets the starting nod for the opener. The two were bracketed as co-starters on Alabama's official depth chart, and Saban hinted that the West Virginia game -- Alabama's toughest non-conference contest, which will be played in Atlanta's Georgia Dome -- might be an opportunity for both to play.
"You've got a starting pitcher, doesn't necessarily mean he is going to go nine innings," Saban said, according to media tweeting from his Monday news conference.
So let's review: In Sims, Alabama has a player who couldn't beat out McCarron over three years but is holding his own against a guy heralded to be better than McCarron. Coker threw nearly as many passes last season as the backup to Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston (36) as Sims has thrown in his entire career (39).
Something most definitely doesn't fit.
Word around UA's fall camp is that Coker's arm is everything Fisher has touted it to be, but that he has been slow to recognize open receivers at times, and absorbing the Alabama system hasn't been easy for him. As a fifth-year senior, it's to be expected that Sims would be far advanced over Coker in understanding what Nick Saban asks of his quarterbacks -- and a new offensive coordinator in Lane Kiffin doesn't change that situation. Yet, sources within the program have told College Football 24/7 that Coker has shown in practice that he can make some throws that Sims simply can't.
Consider the West Virginia game to be something of an audition for the job, particularly if both play, much the way Saban played both McCarron and Phillip Sims during the 2011 season opener in carrying that competition over into regular-season play.
Turnovers have long been a key factor for Saban in arranging his quarterbacks. As much as anything, that could determine whether Coker or Sims breaks the tape as the eventual starter.