Coker delivers top QB performance in Alabama spring game
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Alabama coach Nick Saban doesn't think it's fair to pass judgment on his quarterbacks based on the spring game.
Jake Coker was easily the most productive of the Crimson Tide passers on Saturday in his second bid to win the starting job after transferring from Florida State last summer. He led the White team featuring the first-team offense to a 27-14 win over the defense-led Crimson before 65,157 fans.
Saban said Coker and Alec Morris had a big advantage in playing with the starting offense, with the Tide rebuilding depth after losing nine starters.
''You're going to look at this and say, `Well, these two guys played better,''' Saban said. ''Well, if I had to play on those two teams, I would have played better on the White team.
''That's me playing quarterback. I can still play quarterback. I can sling it a little bit. I can't see very well. I might not be able to avoid the rush like I used to, but I'm just saying they had a much better opportunity. We lost a lot of players on offense. We don't have a lot of depth on offense right now, so it really affects the second unit a lot more than it does the first, especially when you have a few guys that are injured.''
Coker completed 14 of 28 passes for 183 yards, hitting ArDarius Stewart in the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown.
Coker is the only candidate to replace Blake Sims - who struggled in last year's spring game - who has thrown a college pass. He had an interception returned 51 yards by Maurice Smith. Redshirt freshman David Cornwell was 12 of 24 for 110 yards and a touchdown but threw two of the quarterbacks' six interceptions while leading the second team much of the game. Morris was 7 of 11 for 60 yards. Freshman Blake Barnett only attempted four passes but threw for a 29-yard touchdown to Stewart late.
''There can be no great conclusions drawn from any of what happened today, other than we're pleased with what we saw in some of the guys,'' Saban said.
The quarterbacks weren't made available to the media after the game. Center Ryan Kelly said it's been a natural evolution for Coker this spring.
''Last year he was moving into a new role, fighting for a position,'' Kelly said. ''Now, he's the older guy and a lot of guys look up to him as a leader on the team.''
RECEIVERS: Alabama must replace its top three receivers, including Heisman Trophy finalist Amari Cooper, and also lost Cameron Sims to a knee injury this spring. The play of Robert Foster and Stewart was a sign that there's still plenty of talent at that position, including veterans like Chris Black. Stewart had eight catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns. Foster gained 125 yards on six catches.
RUNNING LOW: Running back Kenyan Drake, who suffered a broken leg in the fifth game last season, played with a black, non-contact jersey like the quarterbacks.
''I don't think he had anything to prove out there by going out there and getting tackled and us putting him in a situation where he'd be at greater risk of injury,'' Saban said. ''He's pretty much full-speed.''
Freshman DeSherrius Flowers sustained a shoulder injury on his first carry, further depleting a backfield that lost T.J. Yeldon to the NFL draft and also had Altee Tenpenny and Tyren Jones leave the program.
Saban said Flowers' injury wasn't serious.
DENNY CHIMES: Permanent team captains Cooper, Jalston Fowler and Blake Sims placed their hand and footprints in cement at the base of Denny Chimes before the spring game with hundreds of fans watching. Fellow captain Landon Collins arrived late because of a pre-draft obligation in Indianapolis but put down his prints at halftime.
''Down the road, I'll come back and bring my kids here,'' said Cooper, a potential top-five draft pick. ''It's an even greater feeling to be chosen by my peers and my teammates.''