When Amari Cooper took his turn before reporters Thursday, though, it was not a surprise that much of the conversation with the talented Alabama wide receiver was about two newcomers to the Crimson Tide program who could have a dramatic effect on how the season goes for Cooper and for Bama.
Jacob Coker has transferred in from Florida State and is considered by many to be the leading candidate to replace A.J. McCarron as the quarterback for the Tide. Coker, who played behind Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston at FSU last year, is a junior at Alabama, but the only snaps he has taken with Bama have been in the summer workouts in Tuscaloosa.
Cooper’s observations on Coker:
“Jacob has a really strong arm. He’s really smart. He has a huge upside to him.”
How strong an arm?
“Really strong. He overthrew me a couple of times, but I would say I wasn’t expecting it.”
In the seven-on-seven drills, Cooper said Coker “looks great. Strong arm. He’s really accurate. Takes command in the huddle, which I think is very important. You can tell he’s experienced. I’m ready to see how he progresses in fall camp.”
How different are seven-on-sevens compared to practice in determining how a quarterback will do?
“Seven-on-seven is included in the practice schedule. In practice we have 11-on-11, which is like a real game. We have seven-on-seven. And we have drills with receivers and quarterbacks.”
Can you learn a lot about the quarterback in the summer work?
“You can see him running and lifting weights and see what kind of menatlity he has. You can see how accurate his arm is. You can tell how good a quarterback is in seven-on-seven. You can’t definitely tell, because he has no pass rush, but you can definitely get a sense of it.”
How hard is it for a guy to come on campus and build chemistry with you guys? Is that simple to establish?
“I think it’s pretty difficult, but it seems like, from the first day of seven-on-seven, he was ready. So I can tell he’s a pretty experienced player and I think he’s ready.”
We’ve hear a lot about Coker, but what about Blake Sims, who was the back-up the last two years and number one in the spring? How is he handling all this?
“Blake seems ready. He’s approaching every day like he wants it, like he’s hungry. I like that about him.”
How it’s coming along (on the quarterbacks)?
“I think both of those guys are fully capable of playing winning football for The University of Alabama.”
How is the timing with Coker?
“He looks great. I’m working on my timing with all the quarterbacks, helping all of them out, because they all need it. It’s important.”
After playing with AJ so long, how are you adjusting to having a new quarterback?
“I’m working with them on the field and off the field. Watching film with them, see something and say, ‘See that. We can take advantage of that.’ Doing everything I can to help them and they are helping me as well.”
Quarterback at Alabama is a question mark, right?
“Throughout the league, I’ve noticed a lot of teams don’t have quarterback coming back and they are having quarterback competition. We’re having that, too. I don’t think it’s much of a question mark. Teams go through that every year. I think we’ll be just fine.”
Can you tell early that there is a quarterback you want to win the job?
“I want the best guy. I think all of those guys who are competing for a starting spot are all capable of playing winning football at Alabama.”
Former Bama quarterback Greg McElroy said quarterback play will make or break the offense, that all the talent is around him?
“That’s the case. He’s the centerpiece. He has to play well.”
Next the comments on Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator:
How different is it playing under coach Kiffin?
“Not too different because we’re still under Coach Saban.”
Is the system much different than it was under Doug Nussmeier (Alabama’s offensive coordinator last year)?
“Well, I don’t think the system has changed dramatically. Offenses pretty much the same, some different calls, but pretty much the same”
What has he brought to the wide receiving corps.
“I think Coach Kiffin takes advantage of match-ups. I think he has a good sense of what it’s like to be an offensive coordinator. He’s a very calm person and brings that calmness to the team when things get serious and when you are battling for a national championship every year.”
Were you happy or surprised that Kiffin was coming as offensive coordinator?
“I was happy. At USC his receivers put up really big numbers. Marquis Lee and Robert Woods both had 100 catches. So I was happy.”
What is the dynamic with Kiffin working for Saban?
“Coach Kiffin wants to get the ball in his play-makers’ hands. I don’t know what they talk about in their personal meetings, but it’s always exciting for me to look and see what he did with his receivers at USC and that he could possibly do that here.”
What was your first meeting with Kiffin like?
“When he first showed up he met with all of the offensive players to find out about us. He was asking things like where I was from, what brought me to Alabama, things like that.”