With the official start of the Alabama quarterback battle, spring practice approaching, we’ll individually break down the candidates currently on the roster to give fans an idea of what to expect and what to watch for. Up next: rising senior Blake Sims.
If Alabama's quarterback competition was based solely off of game action from last season, then Blake Sims is a shoe-in for the job.
He saw action in eight of Alabama's 13 games in 2013, coming into the game for AJ McCarron when coach Nick Saban felt it was time for the backups to get some reps. Sims completed 18 of 29 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns while rushing 15 times for 61 yards.
Of course, it's not that simple for Sims who enters the quarterback competition as the de facto No. 1. But, he has a skill set that will likely limit what he can do in Saban's and new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin's offense.
Sims came to Alabama as a 4-star athlete, according to 247Sports, out of Gainesville, Ga. He redshirted in 2010 and played running back in 2011, rushing 22 times for 107 yards in mop-up duty. He made the switch to quarterback in 2012 and has served as McCarron's backup since.
But that doesn't necessarily mean he's automatically the incumbent.
"Not at all," Saban said one week during his radio show, according to Andrew Gribble of al.com, when he was asked if Sims was the heir apparent. "Not at all."
What works against Sims is his style of play.
As a converted running back, he is seen as more of a dual-threat signal caller. He has flashed some ability with his legs, running the read-option as a backup. But his passing has been highly inconsistent at best, and it's unlikely that Saban would overhaul his offense to fit the needs of a quarterback for one season.
Sims saw a significant amount of time at last year's A-Day spring game. He completed just five of his 10 passes for 52 yards and two interceptions.
"Blake, who has had a really good spring and made really good progress, if you look at the spring as a whole, sort of went a little bit 'rat-trap' out there today,” Saban said after the scrimmage.
It is a little bit unfair to judge a quarterback, however, solely based off of a spring game. The offense is largely vanilla and defenders have an easier time anticipating what the offense is going to do.
Sims' other chance at extended game action tells a different story.
In an early October contest against Georgia State in 2013, McCarron was pulled near the end of the second quarter, and Sims got to see the rest of the game out.
Sims finished the day 14-of-18 passing for 130 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.
"Blake has made a significant improvement as a quarterback,” Saban said after the game. “This was probably the first time that he’s really played where we really allowed him to run the offense. We put him in there today and I said, ‘Look, I don’t want any quarterback runs. He needs to run the offense just like he has to play.'"
While Sims may be limited in what he can do in terms of how he fits into the offensive scheme, he clearly has the most game experience in Alabama's system of any quarterback on the roster—or than any joining the roster before next season.
That shouldn't be discounted and will only help his cause.
All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Previously in this series: