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This item will be shipped through the Global Shipping Program and includes international tracking. Will usually ship within 3 business days of receiving cleared payment - opens in a new window or tab. This is a story about Alabama’s 2014 starting quarterback, and like every other story in that category, it faces the central problem of not yet knowing who that player will be.
Coker arrived on campus last week, just in time for fall camp,1 but six other quarterbacks went through spring drills, and Saban has mentioned three — senior Blake Sims, sophomore Alec Morris, and redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman — as plausible candidates to start the season opener against West Virginia.
With almost any other team, question marks under center would spawn question marks everywhere else.
What that track record implies, and what the early enthusiasm for the 2014 edition endorses, is that Saban has built a machine that transcends the usual life cycle of elite programs, and that finds itself exempt from the burdens of regularly scheduled attrition and “rebuilding” years. Alabama quarterbacks, on the other hand, tend to fall on the more human end of the spectrum.
The skeptics who reflexively waved off McCarron’s production on a run-oriented, defense-first team were always looking at the wrong numbers, however. While need may be overstating the point, consider that in the three seasons McCarron served as the starter, Alabama spent 26 weeks ranked no. In that sense, and to the extent that he’s “nothin’ but a winner,” ready and willing to emerge from his cocoon when his moment arrives, the archetypal Bama quarterback is serially overrated. What’s more, the tendency to define success in terms of opportunism and grit risks overshadowing the routine, nuts-and-bolts work that puts the vast majority of games out of reach for the opponent by the fourth quarter. Given Florida State’s 2013 defense — the Seminoles ended the regular season ranked first nationally in both yards allowed and points per game allowed, having held all but one opponent to 17 points or fewer — and the mediocrity of the ACC, Coker could have conceivably steered the Seminoles to the championship game with half of Winston’s production.
Clearly, there will be a few occasions this season that call for the offense to put the pedal to the metal for some sustained period before the fourth quarter, and that remains an awkward proposition. In case you’re wondering, Coker is eligible at Alabama immediately because he earned his undergraduate degree at FSU in three years and is enrolled at Bama as a grad student. Contact the seller- opens in a new window or tab and request a shipping method to your location.
Yet despite the ambiguity at the most important position, Alabama is a near-unanimous pick to win the SEC West, sweeping the preseason magazines and dominating the vote at conference media days. McElroy and McCarron led the Crimson Tide to national championships as fresh-faced starters in 2009 and 2011, respectively, and neither boasted any relevant experience before those seasons.
It also suggests that he’s done so largely by making his quarterbacks as interchangeable as the supporting cast. The baseline for offensive competence in the spread era is steadily on the rise, even in the rough-and-tumble SEC, and the playoff will add an entirely new wrinkle to the championship gantlet this year. Amid towering, 300-pound behemoths and chiseled, quick-twitch Adonises, Tide QBs are the floppy-haired boys next door. That was certainly true for McCarron, even if underrated isn’t a label one typically associates with the Heisman Trophy runner-up. As a junior, McCarron finished with the nation’s best pass efficiency rating, sealing the crown with a flawless, four-touchdown barrage of Notre Dame in the BCS title game.
Sprawling chest tattoo notwithstanding, McCarron never threatened to break the home-grown, clean-cut, within-the-offense mold. The story of Alabama as a state — economically, racially, geographically — is one of adversity, of the little guy humbly scrapping to surpass his apparent limitations.


Barker didn’t lead any dramatic, come-from-behind victories in the championship season of 1992; neither did Wilson en route to his 12-0 regular season in 2008, nor McCarron in the championship run of 2011.
As ludicrous as it sounds for a guy with McCarron’s trophy shelf to bitch about respect, it’s not surprising that someone with his stat sheet would start to chafe at the “plays within the offense” stereotype, especially when fighting to defend his pro prospects.
At Florida State, Coker was considered a relatively mediocre prospect in the class of 2011, earning three-star ratings from recruitniks despite his prototypical size. Last year, fully half of SEC offenses averaged at least 30 points per game in conference play, a share that has risen every year since 2009, when it stood at zero. By necessity, both the BCS and the old pell-mell bowl system that preceded it tended to punish losses more harshly than they rewarded wins, conditioning contenders to live each and every week as if all of their goals and possibly even their basic sense of self-worth hung in the balance. With some unexpected assistance down the stretch, the 2011 and 2012 teams both regained their footing in the polls in short order and dropped the hammer in the BCS title game, just as Florida did in its championship seasons under Urban Meyer in 2006 and 2008, and LSU did in 2007, when the Tigers took the crown despite losing twice in the most incoherent season of the BCS era.
The new quarterback, whoever he turns out to be, will be measured against a very specific standard, one that has been subtly but steadily raised by his immediate predecessors. If you reside in an EU member state besides UK, import VAT on this purchase is not recoverable.
Neither will coach Nick Saban, who has never had time for this speculative media shit, and who has politely (for him) refused to play along with reporters’ assumptions that the job has been gift wrapped for Florida State transfer Jacob Coker, preferring when asked about the current competition to list every other candidate on the roster instead. Nationally, the Crimson Tide have landed in the top four of every major poll so far, joining defending champion Florida State as an ostensible lock for the four-team playoff that will replace the BCS this season. Jay Barker, the only other Bama quarterback to win a national title in the post-Bear era, predated Saban, but he was also an unknown before headlining an undefeated campaign in 1992 as a redshirt sophomore. After all, when surrounded by the deepest set of rushers and receivers in the nation, and backed by a perennially homicidal defense, how important can the specific identity of the guy under center2 really be?
Alabama’s familiar rhythms of success have persisted across many seasons and outlived many innovations, but even Saban’s wardrobe evolves over time. At the time, McCarron’s candidacy was widely viewed as a kind of career achievement award, an unimaginative nod to a recognizable face who best fit the template only after other, more statistically driven candidates began to stumble down the stretch. Last year, he broke his own school record for passing yards in a season (3,063), saving most of the damage for the brightest lights. As the laundry list of big-game success illustrates, however, he was more than capable of rising to the occasion when generic, between-the-tackles grinding failed to generate enough juice. When Bama fans amble along the sepia-toned back roads regulated by the nostalgia gland in the recesses of their brains, McCarron will never stride boldly into the frame as a hyperefficient technician patiently carving up a succession of blue-chip defenses.
By contrast, the story of Alabama football is one of a fully funded juggernaut that can win anywhere in America. Since Saban’s arrival, the Crimson Tide have watched opposing quarterbacks engineer as many fourth-quarter comebacks as their own, and two of their three losses in 2012-13 were clinched by McCarron turnovers on potential game-winning drives. At the most fundamental level, he saw that the mythmaking that entitles him to a lifetime of free beers in his home state also takes the difficulty of his job for granted. After redshirting his first season in Tallahassee, he attempted five garbage-time passes in 2012 and 36 in 2013 before suffering a season-ending knee injury last November. Despite leading the league in both total and scoring defense, as usual, Alabama still yielded 40 points for the first time in the Saban era in its shootout win over Texas A&M, and later rang in the new year by allowing 45 to a relatively pedestrian Oklahoma attack in the Sugar Bowl.
Its record in those contests: four wins and eight losses, including all three defeats in 2012-13. The playoff also figures to lower the bar slightly for the also-rans, which almost certainly would have included Alabama in 2013, even in the wake of an unprecedented sucker punch of a loss at Auburn.
Perfect the process, and the results will take care of themselves.That last one, at least, is fair. Phil Steele, the dean of the prognostoscenti, predicted in his annual preview magazine that Alabama will score 37.0 points per game (one point shy of the impressive average it posted the past two years) while averaging 500 yards of total offense (which would be the top-gaining attack in school history). If the Tide are the last team left standing in January, Saban will join Bear Bryant as the only college coaches to win a national title with three different starting quarterbacks in the span of a decade, much less three different starters in succession.


In this narrative, the only number that mattered was .900, McCarron’s winning percentage in 40 career starts. They’ll always recall him as the boy from Mobile who broke down in tears after leading a game-winning, championship-saving drive at LSU on one of the worst statistical nights of his career, and then bagged a beauty queen.
Especially under Saban, the operation has been a monolith, obsessed with maintaining the high ground in recruiting wars, perpetually upgrading its palatial facilities. Otherwise, returning players this fall accounted for 5,133 yards from scrimmage in 2013, the highest returning total of any FBS offense except Baylor (5,196).
In between, Auburn’s runaway triple-option scheme gashed the Tide for more rushing yards, on more yards per carry, than any opposing offense7 since Saban’s third game on the job in 2007. Even two of the highest-scoring offenses in school history, opposite a pair of elite, top-five defenses stacked with NFL talent, weren’t able to score enough to ensure perfection in either season.
Since 1989, Bama starters have officially combined for a little less than 500 yards rushing. And if Coker completes the trifecta, he’ll join Auburn’s Cam Newton (2010) and Oklahoma’s Jamelle Holieway (1985) as the only quarterbacks ever to win a title in their first year on campus. Of course, that didn’t stop doubters from shouting that the defense had more to do with that total than the quarterback.
Against LSU, he led six consecutive scoring drives in a 38-17 victory that bore no resemblance to the infamous 9-6 slugfest of 2011.
That’s a picture that can hang above mantels statewide, right alongside paeans to McElroy’s game-winning, championship-saving drive at Auburn in 2009, and Steadman Shealy’s game-winning, championship-winning drive at Auburn in 1979, and maybe even Barker’s game-winning pass in the 1995 Citrus Bowl. The image of the everyman quarterback, steeled only by the sage old coach in his ear and the Crimson in his veins, is a vital link between the underdogs in the stands and the powerhouse on the field — a David to humanize the Goliath. By the time Coker was beginning to rehab his knee last winter, the pretense of having briefly shared the depth chart with the eventual Heisman winner had done more to raise his stock than anything he’d accomplished in an actual game. As usual, the majority of the starters from that defense are gone, fighting for NFL roster spots.
2 in every major poll, and all of them felt like small earthquakes reverberating throughout the country. Since 1976, when the New York Jets used a first-round draft pick on Richard Todd, only one Alabama quarterback has been selected higher than the fifth round (Croyle, in the third round in 2006), and none have gone on to start more than 10 NFL games. These are the moments that define what the faithful need and expect from a championship quarterback. That’s how McCarron could bring himself to tell reporters before the draft that “I’ve been disrespected my whole college career,” and actually believe it. The last two guys who occupied the position, AJ McCarron and Greg McElroy, both fit that mold to a tee.
Their post-college careers track instead toward coaching, or ministry, or civil law, or insurance.
In the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma, McCarron went out with a career-high in passing yards (387) and two more touchdowns. So for the sake of clarity, let’s specify that Auburn ran for more yards last November than any opposing FBS offense since 2007.
Their college trajectory is typically retold as a coming-of-age, reinforcing the idea of the coach as a molder of men. Altogether, in Alabama’s four biggest games of the season, he averaged 294 yards with 12 total touchdowns and an efficiency rating of 189.3, best in the nation against ranked opponents.
Coker, who attended the same Mobile high school as McCarron, is a little bigger than the standard model, checking in at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds.



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