published Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Sims 'work in progress' as Alabama opens spring practice

  • photo
    Alabama quarterback Cooper Bateman (18) throws during spring NCAA college football practice on Saturday at the Thomas-Drew Practice Facility in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

  • photo
    Alabama quarterback Blake Sims (6) drops back to pass during the second half of an NCAA game against Georgia State in this October 2013 file photo.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

John Parker Wilson, Greg McElroy and AJ McCarron comprised the succession of Alabama quarterbacks during Nick Saban's first seven seasons as coach.

Or, in another way of looking at it, one pro-style performer after another.

Alabama opened spring practice Saturday afternoon with fifth-year senior Blake Sims as the most experienced quarterback on the roster. Yet for the 6-foot, 202-pounder from Gainesville, Ga., to win the job by the time the Crimson Tide open their 2014 season against West Virginia in Atlanta, he must shift from his dual-threat past.

"That's a work in progress for Blake," Saban said in his brief post-practice news conference. "I thought he made significant progress last year, and I think that's one thing that we want to evaluate and know that he needs to progress in -- his ability to be a more consistent passer, especially in the system that we implement now."

Sims is competing this spring with redshirt sophomore Alec Morris, redshirt freshmen Cooper Bateman and Parker McLeod and early enrollee David Cornwell. The quintet will be joined in June by Jacob Coker, who is scheduled to graduate from Florida State this spring and transfer to Tuscaloosa with two years of eligibility remaining.

The quarterbacks are working under new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, who went through his first SEC practice since preparing Tennessee for the 2009 Chick-fil-A Bowl against Virginia Tech.

"I think you all know that the quarterback competition this spring is something that a lot of people are going to get an opportunity at," Saban said. "The goal is to develop each of our quarterbacks and see which one will give us the best opportunity to be successful, and success is defined by consistency and performance."

Sims primarily has been used as a zone-read runner in mop-up duty, making a 45-yard run in a 52-7 win at Ole Miss in 2011 and a 36-yard run in a 42-10 win at Missouri in 2012. He resembled more of a pro-style quarterback last year against Georgia State, when he played the entire second half once Alabama led 38-0 and completed 14 of 18 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown.

In his seven other performances last season, Sims threw just 11 times, completing four for 37 yards. Morris played in one game a year ago, handing the ball off late in the Tide's 49-0 defeat of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

"A lot of our guys have ability, but they don't have experience," Saban said, "so it will be a work in progress all spring. It's going to be a long time in us developing those players and not being so quick to criticize or quick to make a judgment or decision on one particular player."

Saban announced that a pair of graduated fifth-year seniors, lineman Chad Lindsay and tight end Harrison Jones, had decided to forgo their final year of eligibility. Lindsay was the starting center for nearly a month last season when Ryan Kelly was getting over a knee injury, while Jones is the brother of former Tide standout lineman Barrett Jones.

ArDarius Stewart, a 2013 receiver signee who redshirted last season, will work the first few days at safety in a move Saban called "very experimental."

Saturday also marked the return of two assistants to the staff, defensive line coach Bo Davis and inside linebackers coach Kevin Steele, as well as the debut of eight early enrollees. Cornwell will wear jersey No. 12, while touted cornerback Tony Brown will wear No. 2 and heralded tackle Cameron Robinson will be in No. 74.

Alabama will practice Monday, Wednesday and Friday of this week before the university's spring break. The Crimson Tide's spring game will be April 19, with a 2 p.m. EDT start on ESPNU.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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