This is getting to be a regular thing for Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, who will coach his third starting quarterback in three years with the Crimson Tide.
The first two years could not have gone much better, as 2014 starter Blake Sims and 2015 starter Jake Coker now sit first and second among Alabama’s single-season passing leaders. Now Kiffin will attempt to make it three successful seasons in a row as he and Nick Saban pick a starter from the competition between Cooper Bateman, Blake Barnett, David Cornwell and talented early enrollee Jalen Hurts.
Let’s examine Alabama’s quarterback situation:
2015 in review: Coker and Bateman shared reps early last season -- Bateman even started the Week 3 loss to Ole Miss -- before Coker finally ran away with the starting job. The senior took every meaningful snap the rest of the way, finishing the season with 3,110 passing yards (second-most in school history for one season), 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Coker was at his best when it mattered most, completing 59 of 81 passes (72.8 percent) for 825 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions in Alabama’s three postseason games en route to the national title. Bateman finished the season 37-for-52 for 291 yards, one touchdown and two picks.
What’s the buzz?: “People overlook a lot of stuff with us. [They say] no experienced quarterback means nothing, no experienced runner means nothing. I don’t have anything to do with the Vegas line and all that, but I saw that up there. Based on playing against Clemson’s quarterback [Deshaun Watson], how they could not pick them to win? That guy’s the most dominant player in college football since Cam Newton. I don’t care who plays quarterback for us. He ain’t gonna be that good.” -- Saban
Key weapons: While his backfield depth is a question mark without Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake, the Alabama quarterback will have plenty of passing weapons at his disposal. Alabama’s top three receivers – Calvin Ridley (89 catches, 1,045 yards, seven touchdowns), ArDarius Stewart (63-700, 4 TDs) and tight end O.J. Howard (38-602, 2 TDs) are all back, and graduate transfer Gehrig Dieter (94-1,038, 10 TDs last season at Bowling Green) gives Alabama one of the top collections of pass-catchers in the country.
What to watch: Can true freshman Hurts or redshirt freshman Barnett overtake the older player here? Fourth-year junior Bateman attempted at least one pass in six games last year, and that’s important because the other guys haven’t played in college at all, but we’re not talking about a grizzled veteran. Saban doesn’t seem like the type to lean on a rookie, but he might surprise us this season. It sounds like Hurts in particular has made a strong push for the job.
Next in line: Once Alabama names a starter, maybe we’ll have a better idea about the pecking order. It’s too early to say now.
Grade: B-minus. Alabama seems to have some solid options, but there is extremely limited experience at the position. This is the most important QB competition in the SEC -- and perhaps the country.