Sims Will Start SEC Opener vs. Florida; Brown Set To Receive Expanded Role At CB [VIDEO]
If there were any doubts about who would be Alabama's starting quarterback on Saturday, there aren't anymore.
Alabama coach Nick Saban confirmed at his Wednesday press conference that Blake Sims will make the start.
"We're going to play Blake and we'll always evaluate and see how it goes," Saban said. "We have a lot of confidence in Jake. If we need to play Jake, we'll certainly have no problems putting him in there and allowing him to play."
Sims has started the Crimson Tide's previous three games this season, passing for 646 yards and four touchdowns on 48-of-64 passing in three Alabama victories. Sims played the entire game against West Virginia until the final two plays and up until the end of the third quarter last week against Southern Miss when the Crimson Tide pulled away late.
In the second game against Florida Atlantic, Sims and Jake Coker, who has been Sims' main competitor at quarterback, rotated in as the starter after Alabama built up a quick 21-0 first-quarter lead.
With each start, Saban said the coaching staff continues to expand the playbook for Sims.
"I think you try to develop a menu of things that players have been exposed to on offense, defense, special teams," Saban said. "And then you draw from those things from game to game to game because you can’t practice all those things and present some new multiples every time you get the opportunity.
"When it’s all said and done, it always comes down to how you executed whatever it is you did. So if you think you're going to trick them by putting a bunch of new plays in that your players aren't capable of executing because you didn't practice enough, you're probably not going to do it very well."
Brown to start at corner?
One of the youngest players who will see the field Saturday against Florida may have one of the biggest roles to play at Alabama's most vulnerable position.
With sophomore Eddie Jackson hampered by a quadriceps injury suffered in last Saturday's game against Southern Miss, true freshman cornerback Tony Brown has been practicing with the first-team defense this week in practice, alongside junior Cyrus Jones.
And by the sound of it, he may play more than even he could have previously expected.
"He will play a lot in this game," Saban said.
Brown has played in all three games this season, making one tackle. When Jackson went down with injury in the third quarter against the Golden Eagles, Brown stepped in to fill that role.
"Tony's definitely improving, definitely getting better," Saban said. "I think the opportunities that he's had to play in the last two games have been good for his development and his confidence."
Regardless of whether Brown starts on Saturday, chances are he will have to matchup against Florida sophomore Demarcus Robinson, the Gators' top wideout, at some point or another in the game. Robinson ranks near the top nationally in several major statistical receiving categories, despite playing one less game than most through three weeks into the season.
But the pressure hasn't gotten to Brown yet.
"I think he’s handling it well," Jones said about Brown's expanded role this week. "He’s always been a guy who’s just eager to learn, takes coaching well, so he’s progressing really well."
The Crimson Tide has already had two different starting cornerback combinations this season with Jones and junior Bradley Sylve against West Virginia, and Jones and Jackson in the last two games.
A different type of fullback
Junior college transfer Dominick Jackson hasn't quite earned a spot with the first-team offensive line yet, but he has been able to see the field in ways other than with the backups.
In last Saturday's 52-12 win over Southern Miss, Jackson helped pave the way for running back Kenyan Drake on the second of his two 1-yard touchdown runs in the game as a fullback.
But the move to play Jackson in that role isn't quite as unusual as it sounds. Under Saban, former defensive tackles Terrence Cody and Jesse Williams -- who both also transferred to Alabama from junior college -- also frequently played in that same role.
Saban offered some insight about what he looks for in a player to fill that role in that situation.
"Just an athletic guy who’s physical and has a good understanding of what we’re trying to do," he said. "Whether we’ll continue to use a guy like that in that role or not, we’ll decide that week-to-week."
With his 6-foot-7, 320-pound frame, Jackson is comparable in size to both Cody (6-foot-5, 365 pounds) and Williams (6-foot-4, 320 pounds).
"He’s crazy, so we put him back there," tight end Brian Vogler said. “He’s crazy enough to run into a hole and probably hit the hardest hitter on their defense.”
Wide receiver DeAndrew White (shoulder) and, surprisingly, defensive back Jarrick Williams (foot) may be available to play on Saturday, Saban said Wednesday.
White, who separated his shoulder in the season opener against West Virginia, has practiced since last week, where he has not been limited since that Tuesday. Saban said White has "done fine," but never confirmed whether he will play or not on Saturday, though it appears that he will.
White warmed up in pads before last Saturday's game against Southern Miss. Before he suffered the shoulder injury, he made six catches for 73 yards against the Mountaineers.
Williams returned to practice this week from a fractured bone in his foot, also sustained against West Virginia, that was expected to take four weeks to heal.
On Monday, Saban called Williams a "long shot" to play on Saturday, but on Wednesday, he sounded more optimistic about a quicker return.
"We’re not sure what we’ll do with him yet," Saban said. "He’s done fine, but he’s a little bit ahead of schedule for right now, so we need to talk to the medical people so that they can make the decision relative to what’s best for him."