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Jake Coker Ready For Third QB Competition

Undrafted rookie free agent from Alabama will battle Matt Barkley for roster spot


Cardinals quarterback Jake Coker warms up during an offseason workout.

Jake Coker played on college football's biggest stage six months ago, throwing for 335 yards and two touchdowns as Alabama defeated Clemson for the national championship at University of Phoenix Stadium.

The Crimson Tide's quarterback didn't feel burdened by the weight of expectations that night, too immersed in the game plan to worry about external factors.

When he returns to the site of that glory for Cardinals training camp in a month, the deafening crowd noise will be gone and the stadium mostly empty. But it's here Coker will feel the squeeze.

The undrafted rookie was signed by the Cardinals on April 30 to battle Matt Barkley for the third quarterback job behind Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton.

If he plays well enough, Coker will make the team and try to position himself as a player worth keeping for the long haul. If he struggles, he will get cut.

"Playing in the national championship, it's football," Coker said. "You know you're the guy, so it's a lot easier because you know what you've got to do. You know the plan ahead of you. This is a little different, because you don't know if you're going to be here or not if you don't perform."

Coker's overall numbers in his one year as a college starter weren't gaudy, but he ended impressively, throwing for 1,159 yards with nine touchdowns and zero interceptions in his final five games. While he wasn't one of the record 15 quarterbacks selected in the draft, Coker enters a situation where he will be given a legitimate shot to win a job.

Like his fellow rookies, Coker dealt with a steep learning curve early. He threw a couple interceptions in rookie minicamp while running brand-new plays and throwing to brand-new receivers. Coach Bruce Arians wasn't worried about the picks, and instead saw a "big, strong kid who seems pretty bright." A few weeks later near the end of offseason work, Arians was happy with Coker's progress.

"Jake's gotten better and better," Arians said. "With all the volume we've put on these guys, he has gotten quicker and faster and the ball's coming out of his hand better and better. I think with a summer of studying and watching himself on film, he should continue to improve."

Coker said the Cardinals' playbook is the most in-depth he's ever had, but it all began clicking near the end of OTAs.

"When I called the play in the huddle, I had a good feel for what I needed to do when I got up to the line," Coker said. "I've got a long way to go, but I definitely felt more comfortable at that point."

Coker has been in quarterback battles before. He began his career at Florida State but transferred after losing the starting competition to Jameis Winston as a sophomore in 2013. He was beaten out by Blake Sims as a junior at Alabama before getting his chance as a senior.

This one is a bit different, in that a roster spot and a potential NFL career are on the line. It's a lot to handle, and so Coker will attempt to treat it like something easier – like a national title game, for instance – in hopes of making the cut.

"If you think about in (terms of), 'Oh, I've got this many weeks,' it's too much pressure," Coker said. "You've just got to go play football."

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