Alabama quarterbacks maintain friendship despite position battle
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Blake Sims and Jake Coker aren't letting a little thing like vying to be the guy to lead Alabama in pursuit of Southeastern Conference and national titles come between them.
The two quarterbacks engaged in a bid to become the starter for the third-ranked Crimson Tide remain friends after preseason camp and two games haven't produced a clear-cut No. 1. Coker got his first meaningful game action since transferring from Florida State in Saturday's weather-shortened 41-0 win against Florida Atlantic, but Sims started started the game.
"Blake's been really good to me," Coker said after the game. "A lot of times, it's tough to be in that position, especially with a transfer coming in, but I couldn't have asked for more from Blake.
"The touchdown I threw, he was the first one there, smiling, giving me a big hug. He's an awesome guy."
Alabama (2-0) has another game upcoming against a heavy underdog, Southern Miss. That affords an opportunity to let both quarterbacks get their shots.
Then comes the first SEC game against Florida.
Sims passed for 214 yards and two touchdowns against FAU and ran for a third score. Coker threw for 202 yards and a touchdown, the first time Alabama has had two quarterbacks pass for 200 yards in the same game.
Sims said he and Coker "have a great relationship" and aren't getting caught up in trying to beat each other out for the job. He also said it's about the team, not public perception.
"We love our fans and we're happy to have them here, but the day's all about the Crimson Tide, the guys that have the jersey on and just being one and being happy for each other," Sims said.
Tide coach Nick Saban makes it clear this won't be settled by polling who the fans or media like best. The stakes are high for a team that has won three of the past five national titles behind efficient quarterbacks AJ McCarron and Greg McElroy, who executed the offense with minimal mistakes.
Saban said Alabama will likely need both guys to play well at some point.
"This is not one that's going to be a popularity contest," he said. "It'll be what's best for our team, and the decisions and the judgments will be based on one thing, and that's what's going to help our team have the best chance to be successful and win."
Sims' experience in the offense has been evident. He has passed for 464 yards and rushed for 56 through two games.
Coker, who didn't attempt a pass in mop-up duty against West Virginia, had some good and bad moments. He threw downfield more than Sims, but misfired on several occasions.
"Obviously, I made a few throws [Saturday] that weren't good throws, and they were still caught, so it's nice to be able to count on those guys," Coker said.
He also threw too high on a couple of screens, but still completed 15 of 24 passes. Coker led Alabama to FAU's 4-yard line in the final minute of the first half, but was sacked on the last play.
Coker has been through this drama before. He lost out on the starting job last season at Florida State to Jameis Winston, who wound up winning the Heisman Trophy. He knows that fans can choose sides at times, too.
"I know that happens," Coker said. "The place I came from before that, there were probably a lot of people that didn't even know my name when I was in that competition. But no big deal. You're out there playing. It's a part of college football. Me and Blake are real good friends."
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