MIAMI — Alabama backup quarterback Blake Sims played in nine games during the regular season and did well with his opportunities.
Now he's helping the Crimson Tide in a different way. The 6-foot, 212-pound redshirt sophomore from Gainesville, Ga., is emulating Notre Dame starter Everett Golson in practice.
"He's really the key this week," Alabama senior linebacker Nico Johnson said Saturday. "Their quarterback is very good, and Blake has given us a great look. He's given us good looks throughout the whole year, but he kind of elevated it and took it upon himself because he knows how important his role is. We're thankful for him."
Sims rushed 30 times for 187 yards and two touchdowns this season in relief of AJ McCarron. He also completed 5 of 10 passes for 77 yards.
Emulating Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel has been his favorite when guiding the scout or "look" team.
"It can be fun to step into another offense, because you always wonder how it would be to run their plays," Sims said. "It's been fun to go against my team knowing at the same time that we're getting better. A lot of people don't like to do it, but I take it very seriously."
Notre Dame senior right guard Mike Golic Jr. is the son of the Irish's 1984 team captain, and uncles Bob and Greg played there as well. Golic Sr. played nine seasons in the NFL, including a five-year stint in Philadelphia from 1988 to '92.
"It's always been a blessing with my dad being who he is," Golic said. "It's presented tremendous opportunities for me, and he's been where I am and where I want to go. To have someone with the knowledge of how to get there has been a real valuable tool for me, whether it's about football or the rigors of college."
Golic Sr. is more recognized now as a co-host of "Mike & Mike in the Morning" on ESPN radio. His son has class and football obligations most mornings but has other ways to listen.
"It usually re-airs on one of the ESPN channels later in the day," he said, "so I catch bits and pieces when I can and try to make sure he's not saying anything too stupid."
Kelly vs. Saban
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly believes Monday night's game will be about the players and the assistant coaches, but he also expects to match wits with Alabama counterpart Nick Saban.
"Normally the game takes its own shape and form, and the coordinators are play-calling, but I'm very active in the game and Nick is very active in the game as well," Kelly said. "So I actually think that's going to be a little bit of how the game is managed. If you watch us, we're managing how we call plays and how many possessions you get, and Nick is going to do the same thing.
"It will be interesting from the aspect that you will have two coaches with their pulses on the game. That influence will be in the game, and it will be kind of fun."
Wild turn of events
This time last year, Gunner Kiel was quarterbacking in the U.S. Army All-American Game and getting ready to enroll early at LSU.
Kiel pulled an 11th-hour switch, however, and enrolled at Notre Dame. His uncle, Blair Kiel, quarterbacked the Irish from 1980 to '83.
"To think about how I was committed to LSU and how they were playing for the national championship, and now I'm at a national championship," Kiel said. "It's so surreal and crazy. Thank God for the moments like this."
Kiel, the No. 1 quarterback nationally in last year's class, redshirted this season. While he sat, Golson flourished down the stretch of his redshirt freshman season.
"It's definitely going to be difficult," Kiel said about challenging Golson in the spring, "but I'm just going to go out there, do my best and try to get better."
Freshman linebacker Dillon Lee, the younger brother of Georgia left guard Dallas Lee, was sent home for missing curfew. ... The Crimson Tide's fourth-year seniors are seeking their 49th career win, which would tie Nebraska's 1997 fourth-year seniors for the most in NCAA history. ... Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart on Georgia's decision not to spike the ball with 15 seconds left in the SEC title game: "We practice that situation all the time, and our play on offense is to throw the ball either in the end zone or to the sideline, because we feel like you get three plays out of it. Right, wrong or indifferent, you get three snaps instead of a spike and two plays."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...