Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Simply Sims: After four years in the background, quarterback starts setting records

Simply Sims: After four years in the background, quarterback starts setting records

Blake Sims has gone from a player without a position to a record-breaking quarterback during his time at Alabama. After just four starts, he has already helped rewrite the Alabama record book, setting the school record with 484 yards of total offense against Florida. Along the way, he has also cemented his position as Alabama’s starting quarterback.

The Gainesville, Georgia, native was never supposed to be the starting quarterback at Alabama. When Jake Coker transferred from Florida State during the off season, media commentators and fans alike wrote Sims off. The position had been all but gift wrapped for Coker. Sims had a 
different idea.

Instead of sitting back and letting Coker win the quarterback battle, the fifth-year senior took the situation into his own hands. Sims let his experience with the program show during Alabama’s offseason practices, and his 
teammates bought into the leadership he provided. His patience with the program finally paid off this season.

“If you look at Blake’s five-year career here, he has played every position we have ever asked him to play,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said before the team’s first game. “He has done whatever you ask him to do for the team. He is very well liked by all the players on the team. He is a really good guy to lead. It really is not always about him. He does a lot to serve other people and help other people. He has always put the team first.”

Sims, a product of Gainesville High School, committed to Alabama over Tennessee, Georgia, FSU and Michigan in 2009 as a highly recruited athlete. Athlete is the recruiting term used in college football for a player who has no well-defined position. Athletes can be good at a lot of things, but at the same time, not great at any of them. Sims came to Alabama as a great player, but one without a position.

“He was just a fantastic athlete. He was probably the best athlete I have ever coached,” Sims’ high school coach Bruce Miller said. “He could run, he could throw, he could catch. He returned punts and kickoffs for us. He could do it all. He had probably just as many electrifying plays around here that I’ve ever seen.”

It was the state semifinal game, and Gainesville was behind at halftime, Miller said, but they were set to receive the ball to start the second half. Sims was back to return the kick, and he took it all the way back for a touchdown for the Red Elephants, who ended up winning the game.

“He just totally turned the game around with that play,” Miller said.

For Miller to call Sims the best athlete he has coached is no light compliment. Sims is not the only Division I starting quarterback from Gainesville High School. Miller also coached USA Today All-American Deshaun Watson. Watson, now a true freshman and the starting quarterback at Clemson, was the Red Elephants’ starter for four years after Sims left for Alabama. Sims served as a role model for the young Watson.

“I looked up to him a lot,” Watson said. “I watched him run the offense, and that inspired me to want to run the same offense, the spread, and do all the things that he did when he was in high school.”

The two quarterbacks have kept in touch and try to train together whenever they are both back in Gainesville. Watson said Sims even helped him along with the recruiting process.

Sims ended his high school career with 3,736 all-purpose yards and 49 total touchdowns. He was ranked as the No. 33 athlete in his recruiting class by

“We’re trying to develop him as a quasi-quarterback/running back, and we might use him as a receiver at some point,” Saban said of Sims in 2010.

Sims had a good arm and he could run the ball, but he lacked the accuracy needed to start at the college level. The coaching staff couldn’t decide where to place Sims at first, so he spent time as a defensive back, running back and quarterback during his first year of practice at Alabama.

While in his redshirt freshman year at Alabama in 2011, he was the team’s third option behind quarterbacks AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims. He ended up playing in five games that season, all as a running back. He finished his brief running back career with 22 rushes for 107 yards, including his five carries for 74 yards against Ole Miss, which was the last time Alabama played in Oxford, Mississippi.

Before the 2012 season, the coaching staff moved Sims to quarterback. During the championship season he saw limited time in 10 games as McCarron’s backup, finishing the year with 187 rushing yards and 77 passing yards.

Sims then entered his junior year again as the team’s primary backup behind McCarron. He played in eight games and finished his junior year with 61 rushing yards while throwing for 167 passing yards and two touchdowns.

After the 2013 season, many thought Sims would replace McCarron as the starter since Alabama had few other options at the time. Then Coker arrived from FSU, and many people believed he had won the job before setting foot on campus. Like usual, Sims went about his business and only worried about what he could control.

“Blake came by the high school one day and we were talking about the situation he was approaching,” Miller said. “He said ‘I’m not going to worry about it. I’m going to work on myself and I won’t worry about all the other stuff that other people are trying to get me to worry about. I am going to be myself and play as hard as I can and see what happens.’”

After battling with Coker in the offseason, Sims was named the starting quarterback for Alabama’s opener against West Virginia. He has made the start in all four games this season and has looked more comfortable as the season has progressed.

“First game I was trusting my line, trusting my wide receivers, and as the games go by I’m trusting them more and more, and they trust in me,” Sims said. “They know I’ll get the ball there. Our relationship is unbelievable, and we’re looking forward to getting better every week.”

Through the all the ups and downs of his career at Alabama, Sims has maintained his position as one of the most well liked and respected players on the team.

“I do think that there is a chemistry there,” Saban said of Sims and his teammates. “Blake has been around these guys for a long time. They know him well, and he has performed well. I think their confidence in him has gone up.”

Even though the media and fans doubted Sims mental and physical ability to run the Alabama offense, Sims’ teammates never doubted his ability to be a team leader.

“He has been a leader all summer long,” Alabama tight end Brian Vogler said. “It is a role he wanted to have, to be a leader on the team. He didn’t know if his position was set or not, so he knew could provide some kind of role on the team and that was going to be as a leader. I think with how things have gone this season he has really come into that role. He is someone you can look to with confidence in the huddle.”

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