Tide operates with novice backups
by Michael Casagrande
Aug 18, 2010 | 3564 views |  0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Starting quarterback Greg McElroy is the only quarterback at Alabama that has experience on the field with the Tide.
Starting quarterback Greg McElroy is the only quarterback at Alabama that has experience on the field with the Tide.
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TUSCALOOSA — For all the buzz surrounding the Alabama passing game, one glaring weakness faces the back end of its quarterback depth chart.

Experience.

Besides returning starter Greg McElroy, none of the other quarterbacks has any.

The transfer of Star Jackson after spring practice left the Crimson Tide with two former top recruits backing up McElroy. But the one thing neither A.J. McCarron nor Phillip Sims has ever done is take a snap in a college football game.

Redshirt freshman McCarron was bumped up to No. 2 behind McElroy late in the season last fall, but was never called upon. His lack of college experience isn’t bothering the confident passer from Mobile.

“I think our coaching staff does a great job of getting our backup QBs ready,” McCarron said. “That’s what we practice for. If you can do it in practice, you can do it in the game. The crowd is the only difference really. You’ve still got people coming after you wanting to take your head off.”

Behind him is the true freshman Sims who enrolled in January to get that extra practice time.

And that it as far as scholarship quarterbacks go. Morgan Ogilvie, son of Major Ogilvie, is the only other quarterback participating in individual drills. Jacksonville State transfer Thomas Darrah provided depth along with Jackson — Georgia State’s new starter — last fall but it soon became clear neither would see meaningful playing time in Tuscaloosa barring a string of major injuries.

So it’s up to the fifth year senior McElroy and the young guns who both arrived on campus with plenty acclaim.

McCarron got more of a chance to show his stuff in April’s A-Day when he led the White team to victory on the final, or bonus play of the afternoon. His 39-yard pass hit receiver Brandon Gibson in the end zone to cap off an up and down 12-for-28 afternoon that included a team-high 196 yards.

The weight room saw plenty of McCarron in the past year. Since enrolling in the 180-pound range, he’s up closer to 205 entering his redshirt freshman year.

Sometimes, coach Nick Saban said, McCarron’s aggressive style needs a degree of restraint.

“I think that sometimes A.J. needs to be very disciplined in what he’s supposed to do. I think sometimes guys with arm talent, they think they can get it in there no matter what,” Saban said. “Those are the kinds of things you have to learn and grow through so that you can play winning football at your position.

“What is more important: Playing winning football at your position or making a great play? Which is more important? If you’re taking a big risk trying to make a great play and it doesn’t work out, too many of those make you not a successful guy at your position.”

Penciled into the third spot on the still mythical depth chart, Sims came to Alabama as one of the top two or three high school quarterbacks in the nation depending on which recruiting service is consulted.

He was the fourth quarterback to see the field on A-Day and complete 1-of-7 passes with a few drops sprinkled in.

The experience issues with those behind McElroy isn’t a major concern at this point, offensive coordinator Jim McElwain said.

“I know sitting in that meeting room every day that I sit in there with those guys, it is very comforting to know that I feel we have a lot of talent at that position,” said McElwain who also coaches the quarterbacks. “It’s great for those two guys to have Greg (McElroy) in that room because he is the consummate guy that studies everything that we do. They’re learning how to be a successful quarterback from a guy that’s won a few games in his career. From a preparation standpoint, I feel very comfortable with both of those guys and where we’re heading at the quarterback position.”
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Tide operates with novice backups by Michael Casagrande

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