TUSCALOOSA, Ala . — When Alabama announced the transfer of Florida State quarterback Jake Coker, it seemed to spell the end for Blake Sims.
Sims, a converted running back, backed up AJ McCarron for two years but had never really shown in his limited game action that he had what it took to lead the Crimson Tide. Coker, meanwhile, came in with NFL scouts praising his ability and FSU coach Jimbo Fisher saying he was the most talented quarterback Nick Saban has ever had.
Fast forward to now, and those projections only look like a distant memory.
Instead, Sims grabbed hold of the starting job and the fifth-year senior hasn’t looked back. He’s on track to be the best passer of the Saban era and adds a new dimension to Alabama’s offense with his feet.
“I always have faith in Blake,” Alabama wide receiver DeAndrew White said. “I wouldn’t have been surprised (to know he would be the starter) because Blake, he’s a very good guy, he has an arm on him and he’s getting better and better. ... I’m just glad to be playing with my teammate I came in with at quarterback and I’m at receiver. It’s a privilege.”
Sims’ breakout game came in Alabama’s fourth game of the season against Florida.
In his first SEC start, Sims put up the second-best passing performance in Alabama history with 445 yards and led the Crimson Tide to its most ever total yardage (672).
Sims’ big day through the air included touchdowns of 87 and 79 yards to Kenyan Drake and Amari Cooper respectively.
Things seemed to slow down for Sims. He wasn’t just running the offense, he was thriving in it.
“I said to myself ‘Hey this is not as bad as I thought it could be,’” Sims said about that game. “I just try to do the best I can do. Keep coach Saban happy and keep (offensive coordinator Lane) Kiffin confident.”
As the season has progressed, Kiffin and Alabama have worked more in for Sims to showcase his feet, whether on designed rollouts or more zone read.
Against Texas A&M, Sims showed his explosiveness as a runner. He shook two defenders, darting 43 yards for a touchdown. The next week at Tennessee, he had a similar 28-yard score.
It’s given the Crimson Tide another way to attack defenses, maximize Sims’ skills and give opposing coaches one more thing to think about.
“It’s not as routine, certainly, quarterback mobility is certainly an element that you have to take into account when you prepare defense,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “You look forward to preparing to formations and sets, but you always have to account for that very mobile quarterback.”
Sims, though, hasn’t played in a road environment like Tiger Stadium.
When he’s struggled this season, it’s been about lack of communication and execution before the play.
Kiffin is on the sidelines this year, the first time for an offensive coordinator under Saban. It’s so he can relay play calls to his first-year quarterback right from the field.
Sims said he’s been studying how McCarron handled the situation at LSU and hopes that he can have similar results this year.
“I noticed certain times in the game that he didn’t have to say anything because the players can look to the sideline or they can look at each other, know the hand signals very well,” Sims said. “He kept his composure very well. That was a tight game that year (2012). I think he did a great job and hopefully I can go and do the same exact thing.”