GAMEDAY: Getting startedBy Terrin Waack | 09/24/2015 1:26pm
Jake Coker prepares to make a pass against Ole Miss. CW | Layton Dudley
As a senior, Coker transferred to Alabama in May 2014 from Florida State University where he was the backup quarterback to Jameis Winston.
Coker started two games this season, Wisconsin and Middle Tennessee.
Against Wisconsin, he completed 15 out of 21 passes for 213 yards. During Middle Tennessee, he threw for one yard more than the last game with 214 yards and completed 15 out of 26 passes with one interception.
During Ole Miss, he did not start, but came in the middle of the second quarter. Coach Nick Saban said, although Coker didn’t start, he knew he was going to play.
“Jake [Coker] came into the game and played with some passion and showed great leadership and energy when he played,” Saban said.
When Alabama trailed 30-10 against Ole Miss, Coker stepped up his game and helped the offense fight its way back. The team did not win, but instead of losing by 20 points, it finished with only a six-point deficit.
“It was great to see him step into that role and be resilient as he was on the field and on the sideline,” running back Kenyan Drake said.
Coker’s ability to use his own two feet has caught the attention of others. He followed Derrick Henry, who led his team in rushing, with 58 yards on seven carries and a touchdown against Ole Miss.
“He’s very mobile, if you didn’t notice,” Drake said. “It was very sneaky with him being as big as he is, he did have the ability to maneuver in the pocket and the ability to run down the field and make a play.”
It surprised his teammates. They see him every day, but that’s not something Coker can really show in practice. Drake said this skill is something that will help the team in future games.
“At this point, provided [Coker] does the things he’s supposed to do, I think we’ll start him in this [next] game,” Saban said.
Bateman saw time in all 14 games last season–as the starting holder, though, not quarterback.
As holder, he was perfect on 87 holds; 22 were field goals and 65 were extra points.
Alabama’s kicker Adam Griffith said Bateman is a good holder and continues to get better.
“Holds are really important—the lean, everything has to be right,” Griffith said. “I try to get him work every day, but it’s kind of hard because he’s competing for the quarterback spot. I feel confident in Coop.”
This season, Bateman has seen action at quarterback in all three games.
Against Wisconsin, Bateman played during the second half of the game and completed seven out of eight passes for 51 yards.
Middle Tennessee was the same story. Coker started and Bateman played during the second half. He completed 11 out of 17 passes for 87 yards with one interception.
Ole Miss was his first career start leading the offense.
Saban said he knew he was going to start Bateman for this game instead of Coker.
“We thought Cooper [Bateman’s] speed would sort of be a change of pace for them, little bit of element of surprise,” Saban said.
Before he was replaced during the second quarter after throwing an interception, Bateman completed 11 out of 17 passes for 98 yards.
The lack of consistency at quarterback doesn’t rattle the rest of the team. Most players have said they are comfortable with both Coker and Bateman. It’s the coaches’ decision and they support whatever that decision turns out to be, even when they’re finding out just at the start of a game during first quarter.
Richard Mullaney said he and the other wide receivers have chemistry with both Coker and Bateman. Their biggest goal is making the two feel comfortable so that, come game time, there’s no second guessing their abilities and the whole offense works together smoothly.
“Obviously, we go through the week with both of the guys,” Mullaney said. “Us, as a team, we feel very confident in both of them. So whoever gets to start, we’re behind them and we feel good about them.”
He’s not the only one who doesn’t mind the fact that a starter has yet to be named.
For all three of its games so far, Alabama players didn’t know who was going to start until they took the field. Offensive lineman Cam Robinson said he didn’t find out Bateman was starting in the Ole Miss game until the first snap, but he wasn’t surprised.
“All the options that we have at quarterback are good options,” Robinson said. “I know all the guys are well-prepared, so it’s just whoever the coach wants to start.”
The inconsistency at quarterback does not correlate to the overall inconsistency on offense either. Robinson said that’s something the offense needs to get together and work on, but it’s not because of the quarterbacks.
Mullaney said having one quarterback wouldn’t make things any easier. He said the team is confident in whoever is out there.
Under both quarterbacks, Alabama totaled five turnovers during the Ole Miss game. But, it didn’t affect their play.
“Both quarterbacks always seemed extremely poised,” Robinson said. “They didn’t let a turnover or anything rattle them. That’s really important. Both guys were really composed and really poised.”
Coker and Bateman are going to continue to be closely watched. Alabama hasn’t named a starter and doesn’t seem in any rush to do so, although Coker may have gained an edge after Saturday’s showdown. The coaches and players are confident in their options, and for now, that’s enough.
“We’re naming who’s starting the game,” Saban said. “We’re not naming a starter.”