TIDE, TAKE THREE
• 1. This is the first meeting between Alabama and West Virginia. The Crimson Tide are just 13-17-2 against current Big 12 schools.
• 2. The Crimson Tide have not lost in September since dropping a 21-14 decision to Florida State in 2007.
• 3. Alabama has won a nation-leading 72 games since 2008, with Boise State (69) and Oregon (67) next in line.
Alabama and West Virginia will kick off their respective football seasons shortly after 3:30 Saturday afternoon inside the Georgia Dome.
Perhaps then the starting quarterback of the Crimson Tide may finally be known.
Coach Nick Saban held his first Monday news conference of the 2014 season with no change in the quarterback competition between fifth-year senior Blake Sims and Florida State transfer Jacob Coker. Each contestant is continuing to get repetitions in practice.
"Obviously somebody has to start the game, and we'll make that decision probably at some point in time this week," Saban said. "I think both guys are doing a good job right now, and we're going to continue to try to develop both of those players at this point."
Sims has played in 23 games for the Crimson Tide, completing 23 of 39 career attempts for 244 yards with two touchdowns. The 6-foot, 208-pounder from Gainesville, Ga., also has run 67 times for 355 yards (5.3 per carry) and two scores.
Coker graduated from FSU in May and has two seasons of eligibility remaining,. The 6-5, 230-pounder from Mobile completed 18 of 36 passes in seven games last season as Jameis Winston's backup.
"I'm confident in whoever Coach decides to put in at quarterback," junior receiver Amari Cooper said. "Those guys are competing, but they're also helping each other out."
In Alabama's 2011 season-opening rout of Kent State, Saban had AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims split time until McCarron took over the job full-time the next week. He was not thinking along those lines Monday.
"We don't have any plans to do that at this point in this game, but that doesn't mean whatever pitcher starts the game is going to pitch nine innings," Saban said.
The quarterback derby has dominated most of Alabama's preseason chatter. Saban has discussed the Tide's veteran receivers, deep defensive front and promising freshman cornerbacks Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey, but rarely has he been asked about tailbacks T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake.
That changed Monday.
"Those guys have all done a really, really good job," Saban said. "They've all had good camps. Derrick Henry and T.J. are more of the inside, downhill, do-it-all kind of runners. Kenyan Drake, because of his speed, can do those things, but he's also a good receiver and perimeter runner.
"All three of those guys are guys that we definitely want involved in the game, and we feel all three can make a significant contribution to our team this year."
The 62-year-old Saban was born in West Virginia and was asked Monday to share some of his memories regarding the Mountaineers.
"When I was a kid, to go to Mountaineer Field to watch West Virginia play was like the highlight of my year," he said. "I still have great memories of home, and I've always kind of been a Mountaineer fan. I remember as a kid sitting in the old Mountaineer Field House, and I used to sit in the upper deck with my feet hanging over the deck and looking between the rails watching Jerry West play. I was only 7, 8 or 9 years old.
"Now I'm Alabama's coach, so I'm an Alabama fan."
Alabama worked indoors for nearly two hours Monday in full pads. ... West Virginia announced Monday that starting cornerback Ishmael Banks would miss Saturday's game due to a suspension. ... Saban said redshirt sophomore tight end Kurt Frietag (toe) would be the only player who would miss Monday's practice due to injury.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
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 ...