Jacob Coker’s First Start Equal To McCarron, McElroy, Sims


One of the most consistent things about Alabama football under Nick Saban has been quarterback play. At the start of his ninth season in Tuscaloosa, Saban is looking to name his fifth quarterback.

We look back at the first starts of the three starters named by Saban during his tenure in Tuscaloosa (we’re not going to talk about John Parker Wilson’s first start because I’m pretending the Shula years never happened) and compare them to this weekend’s performance by possible 2015 starting quarterback Jake Coker.

2009 – Greg McElroy vs. Virginia Tech

Greg McElroy wasn’t named the Tide’s starter until the release of the depth chart just days before the 2009 season opener, but to say that he won a heated quarterback competition would be a stretch. Nick Saban hadn’t recruited any depth at the quarterback position in Tuscaloosa, and McElroy only needed to beat eventual transfer Star Jackson and walk-on Thomas Darrah. It was clear coming out of spring practice that the job was McElroy’s to lose, but Saban enjoys playing coy with his depth chart when possible.

In his first start, McElroy faced a stingy Virginia Tech defense. Tech would finish the year 10-3 and at #10 in the polls. McElroy was able to pass for 230 yards on a defense that allowed only 167ypg through the season.

Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

2011 – AJ McCarron vs. Kent State

AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims spent spring practice and fall camp pushing each other in a competition much more similar to what we’ve seen the last two seasons. It came out the week of the game that McCarron would start, but that the battle was in no way over. McCarron played the first half and Sims played the second. AJ was called on to start the following week at Penn State, but it was not mentioned until after that game that McCarron would continue to be the guy.

Kent State wasn’t a very good team in 2011, with 5 total wins and a 4-4 record in the MAC. The most interesting thing about Kent State’s defense was that they recorded 17 interceptions that season, though McCarron and Sims certainly helped them out with a combined 4 picks in the season opener.

Mandatory Credit: RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

2014 – Blake Sims vs. West Virginia

I’m not going to rehash the drama here. It’s still fresh for most of us. Blake Sims won the right to start the first game and that was all Saban was willing to commit to. He had an adequate but not particularly impressive performance. The next two weeks Alabama came home to play overmatched mid-majors and the quarterback battle seemed to continue. It wasn’t until a late-September game against the Florida Gators when Blake Sims wrote himself into the record books and made it clear that this would be his team.

West Virginia finished the 2014 season 7-6 after a shootout loss to Texas A&M in the Liberty Bowl. The Mountaineers were the only team to beat Big 12 co-champion Baylor in the regular season. Their defense was about as mediocre as you’d expect from a middling Big 12 team, allowing 231ypg of passing.

The Stats:

Greg McElroy – 15/30, 230yds, 1TD, 1INT, 28 rush yards

AJ McCarron – 14/23, 226yds, 1TD, 2INT, 0 rush yards

Blake Sims – 24/33, 250yds, 0TD, 1INT, 42 rush yards

Jake Coker – 15/21, 213yds, 1TD, 0INT, -13 rush yards

It’s tough to compare McCarron’s first start to McElroy, Sims, and Coker. He’s the only QB who had the benefit of getting his first start at Bryant-Denny Stadium and the only one who faced a team from outside the Power-5 conferences. McElroy, Sims, and Coker also played all the meaningful minutes in their first starts, where McCarron only saw action in the first half.

By the numbers, Coker’s first start fits in well with other performances that have led Saban to name a starter. Coker certainly deserves a compliment for being the only quarterback to avoid turning the ball over. His completion percentage was better than McElroy’s and McCarron’s and about the same as Sims’.

The only serious concern I have from his performance is his unwillingness to throw the ball away. His -13 yards of rushing included a run for an 11-yard gain. The two sacks backed the Tide up 26 yards. It’s hard to consider a possession that starts on the Bama 10 yard line without worrying. As Coker gets more accustomed to live-game situations and as the offensive line continues to play together, expect his pocket awareness to improve.

What did you like (or not like!) about Coker’s first start? Do you think the quarterback battle is over? Are you upset that I’m a Shula denier? Let us know in the comments.

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