College Football's New Look

But the quarterbacks recruited behind them didn't progess at the same pace. You can pin it on inexperience or faulty recruiting or the effect of coach Nick Saban needing three offensive coordinators in his first six seasons. Whatever your flavor, when Coker, like McCarron a graduate of Mobile St. Paul's, decided he didn't want to spend his last two seasons of college football eligibility as Jameis Winston's backup at Florida State, he graduated and enrolled at Alabama.

If Coker were a horse, he would look good in the Daily Racing Form. His grandfather Jules Mugnier was a two-sport star at Spring Hill College and became a champion golfer in Mobile, where he is a member of the local sports hall of fame.

In addition to the bloodlines, Coker has a résumé. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher insisted that Coker pushed Winston to the limit before Winston won the starting job. After spring practice a year ago, Fisher described Coker as "a big, strong guy that can think. Really knows the offense, tough guy, big-time arm strength, can get the ball vertically and throw the underneath game."

Coker couldn't stay healthy in 2013. He struggled with a broken bone in his foot during spring practice before suffering the knee injury in the middle of the season. Once Coker committed to Alabama in January, and remained in Tallahassee to complete his degree, he had training and strength staffs on two campuses interested in his rehabilitation.

To be completely clear, half a state, Coker's native state, wants to see him at full strength. As far as Alabama fans are concerned, Coker can't get healthy fast enough.

AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn tight end C.J. Uzomah reflected on the strides Auburn made in going from 3-9 in 2012 to 12-2 in 2013, and why he expects the Tigers to improve on finishing 13 seconds short of the national championship.

"We have been in this offense, this defense, under [strength] coach [Ryan] Russell for a little more than a year," Uzomah said. "It's time for us to elevate it a little more."

For nearly every upperclassman, that is true. But not quarterback Nick Marshall, who, after arriving in August without the benefit of spring practice or summer workouts, took the Tigers so far. Learning the offense as the season progressed, Marshall finished with 3,044 yards of total offense and accounted for 26 touchdowns.

"He came in, and he wasn't here for anything," said Uzomah, who caught 11 passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns in 2013. "It took us a while to say, 'All right, we can really trust this guy.' Last year, in general, he grew every game and showed unbelievable ability to throw the ball when he needed to, like Mississippi State, or run the ball against Tennessee for 200-plus yards."

Rarely did any defense expose Marshall's inexperience. Florida State did a good job on him in the second half of the BCS National Championship, limiting him to 19 rushing yards and no touchdown passes, while converting a fourth-quarter pick into seven points.

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