Mark Edwards commentary: FSU's Coker says he's not leaving, but Tide could use him

January 4, 2014 

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. --Auburn won't get a look at sidelined Florida State quarterback Jacob Coker in the BCS championship game on Monday, but that could change next season.

Strong speculation has centered on Coker transferring to rival Alabama, although he refers to such talk as rumor.

"I have no plans to transfer," Coker, who is out with a torn meniscus in his knee, said Saturday morning during a BCS media appearance. "I'm just trying to get my knee better."

Even so, Coker seems a natural to transfer. Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, a redshirt freshman, won't be eligible for the NFL draft for another year, which would keep him behind center for FSU and Coker on the bench for at least one more season.

Coker, a redshirt sophomore, said he is set to graduate at the end of the spring semester. Under NCAA rules, transferring as a graduate student would make him eligible immediately at an FBS school, and he would have two years of eligibility remaining.

Coker was FSU's third-string quarterback last season, behind EJ Manuel and Clint Trickett. Manuel went to the NFL and is with the Buffalo Bills, while Trickett completed his degree requirements and transferred to West Virginia, where he threw for 1,605 yards and seven touchdowns this past season.

This year, Coker competed with Winston for the starting job during the spring and summer, with Winston coming out on top in the final week of preseason camp. Coker played in seven games, completing 18 of 36 passes for 250 yards.

Alabama seems like a natural landing place for Coker, a Mobile native.

All-America quarterback AJ McCarron has completed his senior season at Alabama, which included 36 wins in 40 starts and a pair of national championships. Coker played at St. Paul's, succeeding McCarron as the Saints' starting quarterback.

No quarterback remaining on the Tide roster has much experience or a lock on the job.

Blake Sims, a senior-to-be, was McCarron's chief backup the last two seasons. Alec Morris will be a sophomore, while a trio of freshmen -- Parker MacLeod, Cooper Bateman and Luke Del Rio -- sat out this season as redshirts. In addition, Oklahoma prep quarterback David Cornwell, who is recovering from knee surgery, is expected to enroll in time for spring practice.

Coker grew up an Alabama fan, like his father. He said his mother's family is all Auburn.

Alabama recruited Coker, but Saban was slow with a scholarship offer, and Coker wound up choosing Florida State.

Coker had surgery in November and said he is hoping his recovery will be complete in February, which will mark 12 weeks from start to finish.

"They're saying to me that it's going a lot faster than they thought it would," said Coker, who walks with a cane because the FSU trainers "make me use it."

Winston said Coker is an incredible athlete. Even throwing on one leg, he is impressing his teammate.

"Me, personally, I think Jacob can go anywhere and start in any program," Winston said.

Florida State senior defensive back Lamarcus Joyner compares the battle between Winston and Coker to the one at Florida between Tim Tebow and Cam Newton, both of whom eventually won the Heisman Trophy. Newton did it at Auburn, but Joyner said he was recruited by Florida when both were on the Gators' roster.

"You have two NFL guys sitting on one roster," Joyner said. "Everyone know about Jameis Winston. He's the Tim Tebow right now. He's in that light. But no one know about Jacob Coker. Great kid. Physical."

That includes one time when Joyner intercepted one of Coker's passes in practice.

"That kid came and hit me harder than I ever been hit in my life," Coker said. "Yes, it felt like a linebacker. (He's a) big kid, can make all the throws, very intelligent, and he's going to have a future himself, just as Jameis Winston."

Contact Anniston Star Sports Editor Mark Edwards at Follow on Twitter at@MarkSportsStar.

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