Recruiting heats up, as does push for ‘Division 4’
By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief
June 8, 2014
When Alabama football officially gets cranked back up for fall practice, the Jacob Coker Watch will start approximately 1 millisecond afterward.
Unfortunately for Coker, the expectations for him, which are already high, will simply continue to snowball over the course of the summer. And if Coker doesn’t come right out of the gate looking like some combination of Joe Namath, Peyton Manning, Y.A. Tittle, an M1A1 Abrams tank and Secretariat, the fan backlash could be the biggest thing since … well, since the last second of the 2013 Auburn game. There is no meltdown like that of an angry Alabama fan.
This is assuming that Coker even wins the starting quarterback job in the first place. He must first get by Blake Sims, to say nothing of Cooper Bateman, or even Alec Morris and David Cornwell. Parker McLeod has already bowed out of the competition and announced his intention to transfer elsewhere.
With spring practice over and summer workouts in full swing, college football fans find themselves in a three-month limbo where a lack of official sports coverage intersects with rumors of how certain players look in workouts, and the hype machine starts to spin into action. For the record, Jacob Coker has been rumored to look both like the aforementioned five-headed monster, and also like a bust, as well as several points in between. As if anyone can tell much from what amounts to a backyard game of catch, that is.
What he eventually develops into is something unknown to all, at this point. What he is, currently, is a guy fighting four other guys for playing time, although his realistic competition is expected to boil down to just Sims and Bateman. And that’s where the fun really starts.
Blake Sims has lit up practices for a couple of years, but has had erratic performances in live games, not to mention recording a pair of A-Day performances that could best be described as flat-out bad (2013) and mediocre (2014). Neither flat-out bad nor mediocre is good enough to lift Alabama to its 16th national championship, which is the standard in Tuscaloosa. It’s not good enough to secure another SEC championship, either. College football changes quickly, perhaps even so quickly that the Crimson Tide couldn’t hope to win a championship against any good team with the box score line Greg McElroy put up against Texas in 2009.
Sims has earned the right to start camp as the No. 1 guy, but all eyes will be on Coker. There is also a subset of the fan base that believes the real fight may come down to Coker versus Bateman, as both are adept at pro-style offenses, whereas Sims seems to need more zone-read option and overall motion to maximize his potential.
If Coker wins the job, fans need to be as patient with him as they would any other backup quarterback – which is what Coker was at Florida State – who ascends to the starter’s role. Putting too much pressure on him could backfire in a big way. Likewise, if Sims holds onto the job, fans need to use restraint if – or when – Sims runs into a rough patch for the first time.
Recruiting efforts not letting up
If anyone is concerned about Nick Saban and complacency, he or she only needs to check the list of committed recruits to see that complacency is nowhere to be found in Tuscaloosa.
While TideFans.com/NARCAS does not assign ratings to prospects until the conclusion of their senior season of high school, the list of committed recruits at this point is already impressive. Other than quarterback and the kicker/punter positions, Alabama already has commitments at every position on the field, and has multiple commitments at every position but running back.
Cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick, safety Deionte Thompson, linebacker Mekhi Brown and defensive tackle T.J. Moton are the headliners at this point, not just because of the positions they play, but because all look like immediate difference-makers. As always, fans will fixate on the quarterback position until someone commits, with Travis Waller of Anaheim, Calif., and Quinten Dormady of Boerne, Texas, the two most interesting (and most likely) names.
One observer recently noted that Alabama could split its current list of commitments in half and each half would be a top-10 class. Whatever the results of this season and future seasons happen to be, there will be no doubt about the talent level in Tuscaloosa.
“Division 4” on the way
Regular readers of this column will note that SEC Commissioner Mike Slive’s recent voice of support for a mega-division for the NCAA’s topfootball powers sure sounds a lot like what we’ve been advocating for … oh, a decade or more.
If the NCAA does not allow the five largest conferences more autonomy, one of two things is going to happen: Either Slive’s idea for a fourth division will come to pass, or there will be schools leaving the NCAA umbrella altogether, at least as it pertains to football. And it couldn’t happen quick enough.
Despite the protestations of smaller schools’ administrators and coaches – we’re looking at you, George O’Leary – this really is the best thing for the sport. The Alabamas, Oklahomas and Notre Dames of the world share absolutely nothing in common with the Western Kentuckys and Utah States, aside from the obvious fact that both groups issue diplomas upon graduation. Those that plant the crops and harvest the crops deserve to eat the crops first, but for too long the NCAA has ignored true fairness in favor of some kind of artificial method of propping up schools that didn’t want to – or simply were not able to – put in either the work or the money to make their programs viable.
Support for a mega-division has been building behind the scenes for years. By verbalizing his support of the idea, Slive all but told smaller programs to get ready for the inevitable.