TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- While it has been a few years since Alabama had a quarterback battle, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban drew from that experience when discussing how the 2014 race will play out.
In 2011, AJ McCarron eventually out-dueled Phillip Sims to win the job. But the competition that began in spring continued through the first two games of the regular season as McCarron and Sims alternated quarters before McCarron took over for good.
While the 2011 quarterback race had just two participants, the 2014 race features five competitors in the spring with Florida State transfer Jacob Coker scheduled to make it six when he joins the Tide in the summer. Saban said Coker is "certainly a guy that's going to compete for the position too."
So as the Tide begins spring practice on March 15, Saban made it clear that people shouldn't expect a quick decision or much insight into this year's quarterback race.
"We're not going to be in any hurry to decide who the quarterback is," Saban said in a meeting with reporters on Wednesday. "We're going to give everybody a lot of opportunity to compete. You guys are going to ask me at least 1,000 times between now and the first game who's the first-team quarterback, and I'm telling you right now you're probably going to get a thousand 'We're going to wait and see.'"
Saban said it's important to make the right call and if that means dragging the competition into the start of the regular season, so be it.
"I think it's important to get it right," he said. "Consistency in performance sort of defines success in anything. It's no different in this."
Along with Saban, new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Lane Kiffin will also have a big hand in selecting McCarron's successor.
"Every coach wants to create as much improvement as possible, as he can with the players that he coaches and the unit that he's responsible for," Saban said. "I think Lane certainly has the knowledge and experience to do that. I think players sort of respect him and, from what I've seen so far, (they) have a good relationship. You're talking about offseason program and off-the-field kind of stuff, but I think from an accountability standpoint -- coaches and players -- that because of his knowledge and experience that would be something that he can contribute to our team in a positive way with."
Kiffin will certainly have his hands full as he's tasked with coaching up and analyzing five players with different skill sets and little to no experience.
There's rising senior Blake Sims, who's the only one of the group that has thrown a pass at the collegiate level. Sims is the most experienced of the bunch, but most of his work has come in mop up duty. Redshirt sophomore Alec Morris saw his first action in the Tide's blowout victory against Chattanooga, but only handed the ball off.
Redshirt freshmen Cooper Bateman and Parker McLeod spent their first seasons with the Tide manning the scout teams. And incoming freshman David Cornwell has an uphill battle to avoid a redshirt as he's recovering from a knee injury. There's also the fact that no true freshman has ever taken a snap during Nick Saban's tenure at Alabama.
Still, Saban has a defined set of requirements for what he looks for in a signal caller and whomever is able to consistently follow those guidelines will ultimately win the job, he said.
"I think the most important thing about playing quarterback is to be able to be to process information quickly, make a decision, throw the ball accurately in the passing game, and I think the biggest thing is to be able to manage and get us in the right plays when we're sort of running the ball," Saban said. "Whoever can do that on the most consistent basis and have the kind of leadership to affect the people on offense around them is the guy that will probably have the best possibility to win the job."