Southern Miss preview

September 9, 2014

Alabama will play host to Southern Miss Saturday, and you can bet the quarterback platoon of Blake Sims and Jacob Coker will continue. There was a time when the Golden Eagles were good enough to give Alabama a game for four quarters, and thus prevent another quarterback experiment, but no longer.

Sims was impressive against Florida Atlantic in completing 11 of 13 passes, and it's clear at this point that he is Alabama's best option for the moment. But that doesn't mean Coker couldn't be the better option by season's end. Coker wasn't quite as sharp as Sims against the Owls, but it should be noted that he also threw several deep passes while Sims' day was made much safer with shorter throws. That was by design. Arm strength is Coker's speciality, something that isn't Sims' strong suit, and Sims admitted as much after the game. The Southern Miss game should bring much of the same.

At this point, it would be hard to imagine anyone other than Sims starting Alabama's SEC opener against Florida in two weeks, barring a meltdown performance against USM.

A few other notes from around the program ...

Cornerback Eddie Jackson played outstanding against FAU and looked none the worse for his spring ACL surgery. Jackson will provide a much-needed boost to the Alabama secondary while youngsters like Tony Brown continue to develop. ...

As mentioned last week, Jonathan Allen is getting some action in the interior of the line when UA goes to its third-down package on defense, and created some problems in the role for FAU Saturday. Saban's efforts to recruit some defensive linemen who can provide more third-down athleticism has paid off with several young signees, and Allen is most definitely among them. ...

Where is O.J. Howard? Well, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper leads the entire NCAA in catches with 25 through two games, so offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin deserves credit for getting the ball into Cooper's hands. But Cooper's dominant presence must come at the expense of someone else's involvement, and so far, that appears to be the sophomore tight end. At some point this year, perhaps as early as this week, Cooper will draw enough defensive attention to force Alabama's quarterbacks to look more Howard's way. But until then, there is no reason not to keep feeding Cooper. ...

Another week, another big drop for Christion Jones. For the second consecutive game, Sims has thrown an accurate pass for a would-be big gainer to Jones, only to see a catchable ball dropped inexplicably without a defender around to break up the play. Alabama coach Nick Saban is a fan of Jones, to be sure, but Alabama's depth at receiver is such that continued problems could result in more playing time for the likes of ArDarius Stewart, Robert Foster, Chris Black or others.

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