-- TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alec Morris may have had the biggest impact of any Alabama quarterback during the Crimson Tide's spring game Saturday. The problem, however, is that he stood out most as a punter, booming 15 kicks for an average of 38.4 yards.
In a game that was built up as a quarterback showcase, the defense ultimately stole the show while the passing game went missing in action.
AJ McCarron was on hand for A-Day in Tuscaloosa, but only to be inducted into the Walk of Fame. His potential replacements under center, meanwhile, looked far away from fulfilling his legacy as a starter.
Blake Sims, McCarron's backup a year ago and the early leader in the quarterback race this spring, threw for an underwhelming 178 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions on 13-of-30 passing. A 55-yard touchdown pass to Chris Black late in the fourth quarter helped salvage some of his day as the "Crimson" team starter, but it was a far cry from his reported 515 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in two earlier scrimmages this spring, both of which were closed to the media.
"Blake had a really good spring and did a really good job in the scrimmages," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "I thought ... the game speeded up today and he tried to speed up with it, rather than just staying in his rhythm."
Cooper Bateman, a former four-star recruit who redshirted last season, had the two best moments of the day as the "White" team starter, delivering a 34-yard pass over Robert Foster's right shoulder in the first half and then a 32-yard touchdown pass to ArDarius Stewart in the fourth quarter. But he was ultimately inconsistent, finishing with 156 yards and a touchdown on 11-of-24 passing. He was also sacked three times.
Morris, the third quarterback in a three-man race, couldn't separate himself as a passer either, throwing for 9 yards and an interception, though he did make himself valuable as a punter on special teams.
The fourth and fifth quarterbacks in the rotation, freshmen Parker McLeod and David Cornwell, couldn't get out of their own way, either. McLeod came on in the fourth quarter and threw an interception on his first pass attempt. Cornwell would later take the first snap of his career at Alabama only to let the ball slip out of his hands and fall to the turf. It was ruled an incompletion and not a fumble, but it was that kind of day for all of Alabama's quarterbacks.
The good news for Alabama is that another quarterback is on his way. In fact, he was one of the 73,506 fans in attendance at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday.
Jacob Coker, who is on track to finish his undergraduate degree at Florida State and enroll at Alabama later this month, was on hand to watch A-Day. The 6-foot-5 redshirt junior, who backed up Jameis Winston last season, is expected to jump right into the mix when he arrives on campus in Tuscaloosa.
"As I said all along, we recruited a guy," Saban said of Coker. "Blake knows this and Blake embraced the guy before the game. They're going to compete through the summer and through fall camp, and we'll see what we need to do at the position to have a guy be effective."
Sims was said to have made sizable progress before Saturday's showing. The former running back/wide receiver had worked to become a better pocket passer and even spent his spring break working with a quarterback coach in Florida. But given his production at A-Day, he may be behind the eight ball as Alabama heads into the offseason.
The hope for Saban is that the spring game was more a blip on the radar and not the start of a trend for Sims. The playbook was limited, the protection broke down often and Sims' best asset -- his athleticism and escapability -- was hampered by the format of the game, which made quarterbacks subject to two-hand touch rules.
Ryan Kelly, Alabama's starting center, agreed with Saban's assessment that Sims was pressing too much. At the same time, Kelly took some of the blame on himself.
"Sometimes that happens," he said. "You're going to have bad days. But I think that's where the offensive line could have come in and given him more time in the pocket."
Sims and the other quarterbacks will undoubtedly take the heat for their poor performance at A-Day, but the offense as a whole wasn't much better. Aside from a so-so effort from the offensive line, there wasn't much scoring in Lane Kiffin's debut as offensive coordinator. Alabama's first eight drives resulted in seven punts and a missed field goal. All 30 points in the game came in the second half.
Saban, for his part, tried to look at things optimistically.
"We did make some plays, but it wasn't really the consistency that you'd really like to see in the offense," he said. "But when you play against each other, what's good for one is not so good for the other. So you have to give the defense some credit."