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Alabama’s Jake Coker will do what’s needed to win

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Alabama quarterback Jake Coker has seen a lot since he left St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Mobile, Alabama. He was not heavily recruited, but received a scholarship offer from Florida State University after Jimbo Fisher saw his skills. Though Alabama finally offered Coker a scholarship late in the recruiting process, he enrolled at FSU.

Coker saw a lot of the bench during his two years in Tallahassee. Other quarterbacks either on the roster or redshirting were E.J. Manuel, Clint Trickett, Sean Maguire and a guy named Jameis Winston.

He backed up Winston in 2013 and saw a little action, but also enjoyed the chance to enjoy a national championship. Understandably, that was not enough for Coker, prompting him to transfer to Alabama.

Last season, Coker was again in a back-up role, this time to Crimson Tide starting quarterback Blake Sims. Coker got into five games and threw for four touchdowns without an interception.

Coker endured with his teammates the shock and disappointment of losing to eventual national champion Ohio State in last year’s Sugar Bowl. Sims was picked off three times by the Buckeye defense.

As the primary starter this season, Coker has thrown for 2,489 yards with 17 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. His role is to not turn the ball over and make a few throws when necessary. His most important job is handing the ball to Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry.

Coker is best remembered across the country for almost saving Alabama from the shocking home loss to Ole Miss earlier this season. He was benched to start the game, but came on in relief. Coker has started ever since.

“I was pretty angry, (about losing the starting job)” Coker told CBS Sports. “But it was one of those things where I didn’t want to be a distraction to the team or anything like that.”

His attitude and performance did not go unnoticed.

“I think he won the team over with the way he competed in the game,” said Coach Nick Saban.

No one, including Michigan State, expects Jake Coker to be the one who can beat them in Thursday’s Cotton Bowl. They do think Henry and/or the stout Alabama defense can. The Spartans will gear up to contain Henry and look for MSU quarterback Conner Cook to put a dent in the Tide defense.

The Spartans fully expect to win the game if Coker is the one called upon to beat Michigan State with his arm. It might be a mistake to underestimate him.

After all, he has received excellent coaching at two major football programs. He has practiced with two NFL quarterbacks (Manuel, Winston) and been in a few big games already this season. Among those was a solid performance against Florida in the SEC Championship Game.

Coker envisioned playing in a game like this as a senior. The original plan was to be wearing garnet and gold, but crimson and white will work just as well.

In the end, he will do whatever is asked of him in order to advance.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at [email protected]

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