The injury that will hold Alabama fifth-year senior quarterback Jacob Coker out of practice this week was described as "minor" by Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban Monday.
Medically speaking, maybe so.
But for Coker's chances of winning the starting job, it could most definitely prove to be major.
After five candidates for the job failed to distinguish themselves for the job in the first scrimmage of the preseason, Saban made it clear he would be looking for someone to not only step up and win the job in the second scrimmage, but "win the team" as well, referring to the importance of earning the confidence of the rest of the UA offense. Sitting out a week of practice prior to that scrimmage was exactly what Coker didn't need.
Make no mistake, this week was to be the most important week of practice in Coker's two seasons at Alabama, and he'll be on the sideline for most if not all of it. If he misses the scrimmage, as well, the chances he'll be Alabama's starter to open the season are in grave danger.
That's not to say Coker is entirely out of the race. He's been around the Lane Kiffin offense for more than a year now, and from a mental standpoint, he should be capable of moving the chains in next week's scrimmage even if he doesn't get more than a practice or two in beforehand.
But this is a quarterback competition that will be won by a slim margin. The absence of a frontrunner three weeks before the start of the season is evidence enough of that. True freshman Blake Barnett isn't out of the hunt, nor is Alec Morris, who has been around the program even longer than Coker. It's going to be a photo finish, and Coker, for now, is out of the picture.
A solid week of practice and a consistent, turnover-free scrimmage this Saturday might be all it takes for any of the other four candidates to win the job, at least for the opener against Wisconsin.
And if one of them does just that, Coker could find himself working with the twos come game week.
Photo credit: al.com