Alabama quarterback Blake Sims works with Mastrole Passing Academy

Anniston StarMay 22, 2014 

Western Carolina Alabama Football

Alabama quarterback Blake Sims (6) is stopped by Western Carolina linebacker Rock Williams (51) during the second half of an NCAA college football game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- After spending his spring break in South Florida working with quarterback trainer Ken Mastrole, Alabama quarterback Blake Sims decided to double down and spend another week with the private coach before returning to Tuscaloosa.

Sims arrived on Sunday and is scheduled to leave Friday as most of Alabama's team slowly begins to make their way back to town for summer conditioning in the coming days.

Mastrole, a former quarterback at Maryland who now runs the Mastrole Passing Academy, said Sims' training is built around "mental and visual techniques" which includes film study. He also puts Sims through a series of on-field drills to work on eye discipline, timing, footwork and other tools that one needs to successfully play quarterback. Mastrole said he hasn't spoken with Alabama's coaches and that he doesn't focus too much on a team's specific playbook.

Instead, he said his job is to get on a "mental level" as an outside "mentor and coach."

"Obviously you can't simulate a high-speed game environment, but we can go through progressions," Mastrole told the Anniston Star. "If he knows and is detailed enough to go through the playbook and knows the ins and outs of the playbook, I just think that on top of just combining a few things with eyes and alignment with his hip and shoulders will put him in a lot better position to be successful."

Between now and the start of the season, Sims will be locked in a quarterback competition for the right to replace three-year starter and new Cincinnati Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron.

His biggest competitor, Florida State transfer Jacob Coker, reported to Tuscaloosa earlier this month.

Sims, redshirt sophomore Alec Morris, redshirt freshmen Cooper Bateman and Alec Morris and freshman David Cornwell had the luxury of spring practice.

All but a small viewing window of Alabama's practices and scrimmages are closed to reporters. During the two closed scrimmages, Sims threw for 515 yards and five touchdowns. It's worth noting that the scrimmages include a lot of situational stuff and without access to the scrimmages, there's no real context to those numbers.

Still, couple those numbers and comments from Saban and teammates and one can conclude that Sims had pretty good spring through 14 practices.

But the narrative changed following Sims' A-Day performance. Leading the first team offense, Sims visibly struggled. He never looked comfortable against the Tide's stout first-team defense. He completed 13-of-30 passes for 178 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.

"I think the body of work he put into the entire spring speaks volumes as far as what I've seen and heard," Mastrole said. "It would have been nice for him to go out on a strong note."

Since that day, do a quick Twitter search or a scan of any Alabama message board and the majority of the results show that the job is Coker's to lose.

Saban has said it's too early to ignore Sims or Bateman, who showed promise in the spring game.

"Jacob's certainly a part of that competition, but Blake Sims did a good job during the spring," Saban said earlier this month. "As I said before, we were a little disappointed, he was a little disappointed in the way he play in the A-Day game. We didn't really feature what he could do."

Among other things, not featuring what Sims does best likely contributed to difference in statistics. Comparing him to a car from the "Fast and Furious" movie franchise, Mastrole said Sims' is a "unique" quarterback.

"He's a race car that has a NOS button, a nitrous oxide button, where he can push that button and just go," Mastrole said. "That's a unique feature that most quarterbacks don't bring to the table. I think he's learned to harness that as kind of a last option like when things break down, he uses that to his advantage.

"The other part I looked at is, play within the system, but be you. With him, it's still just kind of going through (offensive coordinator) Coach (Lane) Kiffin's system. I think it's getting a feel for going through progressions. I think sometimes he bounces a little bit too much on the balls of his feet."

Mastrole believes Sims possess the talent to succeed in Alabama's offense.

"Overall, he's got the tools, he can throw the ball," Mastrole said. "I'm out there watching him everyday and filming him. He's got the arm to play in the offense. There's no question about it."

Whether its Sims, Coker or one of the others who wins the job, expectations will be high. McCarron helped lead Alabama to back-to-back national championships and was 36-4 as a starter.

And while there are a few questions marks, the Tide's roster is built for another championship run with the returning talent at running back and wide receiver along with the returners and new talent on defense. Mastrole believes Sims has the mental makeup to handle all of the pressure.

"I do. A lot of people will say I'm just saying this to speak highly of my client, but that's not it," Mastrole said. "There have been guys I've worked with in the past that I've had concerns about and have expressed those internally. But Blake gets it. He wouldn't have made the trip down here during his summer to go and workout. That takes determination. I've seen big steps from when we first met. He was a quiet, reserved-type, a shy kid. … At the end of the day, if he goes out and has a successful year and Alabama has a great run, it wouldn't be a shock to me.

"He's just a gamer. … Anything you put him on, he's super competitive. So, he just needs to transfer those little things that we're working on onto the field. I'm not really worried about the pressure of him playing in front of 100,000 fans on 3rd and 12. I think he'll be ready to execute the system in a situation like that."

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