TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — Alabama opened preseason camp with a quarterback competition, several suspended players and a focus on rebounding from a pair of season-ending defeats.
The Crimson Tide veterans hit the practice field Friday with starting nose guard Brandon Ivory, fellow defensive lineman Jarran Reed and linebacker Tim Williams suspended for violating team rules, but also with a prominent newcomer throwing passes.
Quarterback Jacob Coker made his practice debut after transferring from Florida State and arriving this summer. He and last year's backup Blake Sims are vying to replace 2013 Heisman Trophy finalist AJ McCarron, but Tide coach Nick Saban said they're in no rush to pick a starter for the Aug. 30 opener against West Virginia.
Saban, who worked the young players in a second session, said he's looking primarily for decision-making, accuracy and leadership from the candidates.
"And it's going to take some time and some repetition and giving some guys some opportunity to be able to sort that out," he said. "We're not going to be in any hurry to try to make a prediction about what's going to happen at that position. We can't.
"As anxious as everybody is to know and as anxious as everybody is to find out, we can't make something happen before we get an opportunity to evaluate it fairly for everybody."
Coker has been throwing to receivers this summer after Sims and Cooper Bateman led the competition in spring practices. Saban said it was too early to evaluate chemistry between the quarterbacks and the rest of the team.
"I think when you're in a competition, you bring out the best in each player, so it's been helping us a lot as players with guys around them getting quality reps and that's helped us out a lot," tight end Brian Vogler said. "We're not really sure who the quarterback is going to be right now, but the fact that we're getting everybody's best is helping us out tremendously."
Quarterback is the biggest question mark for a team that was in national title contention before closing with losses to Auburn and then to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
Saban said the Tide's challenge as a team is "to sort of resurrect our identity, in terms of what we want Alabama football to be."
Alabama had some behavioral issues during the offseason, including the July arrests of tailback Kenyan Drake and Reed.
Reed was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol in Tuscaloosa on July 13.
Ivory is the only returning starter on the defensive line while Williams played in seven games last season as a reserve.
"Each guy can return to the team on completion of the requirement of what they have to do relative to their suspension," Saban said. "And I have no date that I can give you that that's going to be completed."
Saban said offensive lineman Leon Brown, who is competing for the starting spot at right guard, will probably be limited in practice for at least the first two weeks with a foot injury.
Signees Montel McBride and Bo Scarborough failed to qualify academically.
Saban said McBride, an offensive lineman, is going to junior college. The coach said Scarborough, a five-star athlete/running back, could be able to enroll in January.