TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama’s first depth chart of the year doesn’t clear up the starting quarterback mystery at all.
The top spot looking at the depth chart is inhabited by Jake Coker/Cooper Bateman/Alec Morris. In other words, one of the above.
Tight end O.J. Howard can’t shed much light on the three-man competition either when friends and classmates ask because, “I’m just like them, I don’t know.”
The third-ranked Crimson Tide is hardly alone in keeping a tight lid on which quarterback will take the field in the season opener. It’s not even uncommon at Alabama except that there are apparently three guys, not just two, still in the mix just days ahead of Saturday night’s game with No. 20 Wisconsin in Arlington, Texas.
One of them will be getting the good news at some point this week.
“I’d like to let him (the winner) know three months ago,” Tide coach Nick Saban said. “It’s not about what I like, it’s about what we need to do for our team right now and making a decision for our team. We’re going to make the decision when we think it’s the right time to make the decision for this group of guys.
“Like I said, I would have liked to have made it three months ago.”
It’s not just a mystery for Howard, reporters and fans. It also forces Wisconsin to at least do some preparation for three fairly different quarterbacks when only Coker has attempted a college pass. Coach Paul Chryst figures the Badgers will just have to make some in-game adjustments.
“We kind of knew going in that there was going to be a number of different possibilities, and therefore, I think it allowed us to focus on really what we know of Alabama and what they do,” Chryst said. “In every game, there’s going to be certain adjustments that need to be made, whether it’s something different than what you saw to be with a player that we know.”
Coker battled Blake Sims for the job last preseason camp after transferring from Florida State following his graduation. Howard said the team learned two days before the opener against West Virginia that Sims would be the starter.
Coker got significant playing time off the bench in the second and third games, and Saban hasn’t ruled out playing multiple quarterbacks against Wisconsin. Sims wound up setting Alabama’s single-season passing record with 3,487 yards.
AJ McCarron split time with Phillip Sims in the 2011 opener but won the job and, ultimately, two national championships as the starter.
Now there are three candidates, and not necessarily the three most figured would be the last quarterbacks standing.
Redshirt freshman David Cornwell and Coker appeared to be the front-runners coming out of spring, but Cornwell fell out of the competition during preseason camp.
Alabama even experimented with Bateman at wide receiver during the spring and is probably the most athletic of the three finalists. He was the holder on kicks as a redshirt freshman.
Morris was the least highly touted of the group coming out of high school, but was the only quarterback Alabama signed in 2012 after top target Jameis Winston picked Florida State.
Now, he’s a potential starter.
Saban said each candidate has gotten a segment of practice so they can get repetitions based on what they’d run in the game. He said they haven’t tried to divvy the reps equally three-way.
“We’re going to manage it internally like we manage it,” Saban said. “I’m hopeful that one of these guys does a great job. Look, I’m confident in these guys. I’m confident that they can play well in this game.
“And I just would like to see somebody win the team over, which may not happen until they play.”