Alabama a long way from knowing its offensive identity

Alabama second-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin won't know the identity of this year's offense until he tabs a starting quarterback among five hopefuls.

For a second consecutive year, Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is spending August trying to determine a starting quarterback.

Unlike last year, however, the pool of candidates is a bit larger. Blake Sims wound up winning the job last year over Florida State transfer Jacob Coker, but Coker is in a mix this time around with Alec Morris, Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell and Blake Barnett.

Morris, Bateman and Cornwell were not considered viable candidates for the starting role this time a year ago, while Barnett is a true freshman.

"It does make it difficult with five quarterbacks," Kiffin said earlier this month in a news conference, "but the other way to look at it is that if you eliminate one or two, you might be eliminating the wrong guy. I sat up here last year and didn't know who our quarterback was going to be, so you have to let it play out and let them decide."

Coker ran the first-team offense and Cornwell directed the second-team offense during the A-Day game in April, but head coach Nick Saban said after Wednesday's practice that Morris and Bateman had the best showings in last Saturday's first preseason scrimmage. Bateman spent some of this spring working with the receivers.

Cornwell wasn't mentioned Wednesday by Saban, who added that Barnett needed more time to develop.

The Crimson Tide will hold their second scrimmage Saturday, and Coker is expected to compete after missing most of this week with a foot injury. He is Alabama's only candidate who has thrown a pass in a college game, and he was solid last season in a backup role, completing 38 of 59 attempts (64.4 percent) for 403 yards and four touchdowns.

"The one thing about Jake is that there was too much put on him right away," Kiffin said. "I think you could compare his situation last year to a rookie NFL quarterback who held out, because Jake last year didn't have spring ball, and people forget about that. All of a sudden, he comes in and is supposed to be the guy.

"That was a difficult situation he was put in, and he handled it really well and continues to work really hard."

Kiffin said he and his staff spent a lot of the offseason studying and trying different things, given that five quarterback possibilities would provide various strengths and weaknesses. He knows that until a starter is tabbed, the questions regarding the "identity" of this year's offense will have to go unanswered.

"We're not going to play a certain way no matter what," Kiffin said. "Obviously we want to be tough and physical and run the ball, but there are a bunch of different ways to run the ball. Ohio State isn't running the ball the old, conventional way. They are spreading people out and doing different things, so it's not necessarily the formations and the way that you run but the style and how physical can you be.

"We want to run the ball and be physical, but we have to figure out as our personnel unfolds, who are those players doing that and what skills of that personnel are we using?"

Tide tidbits

Alabama practiced Thursday for two hours in full pads. Left tackle Cam Robinson (sprained shoulder) was back in a regular jersey. In the portion of practice that was open to the media, redshirt freshman Marlon Humphrey was working at first-team cornerback opposite senior Cyrus Jones.

Contact David Paschall at [email protected] or 423-757-6524.