Position outlook: Quarterbacks
The 2012 college football season is just around the corner, and the Alabama Crimson Tide football team will begin gathering in Tuscaloosa for fall camp within the next few weeks. When fall camp begins, the Crimson Tide will have one less worry than it had when camp opened last year. Alabama will no longer be breaking in a first-year quarterback.
Junior quarterback AJ McCarron enters the 2012 season with his head held high, as he guided the Crimson Tide to its 14th national championship last season. McCarron was 219-for-328 in 2011 with a 66.8 completion percentage. His completion percentage was best in the SEC.
This season, McCarron will have to adjust to new faces on the offensive side of the ball. Two of McCarron’s favorite targets, Marquis Maze and Brad Smelley, left for the NFL in January. Now, the Tide is faced with the task of replacing its three top receivers from the 2011 season.
Freshman Amari Cooper has drawn high praise from coach Nick Saban in recent weeks, and veteran wide receivers Kevin Norwood, Kenny Bell and DeAndrew White should provide a number of options for McCarron. The ability of the receiving corps to simply reload instead of rebuild is something that should keep the Crimson Tide offense just as effective as it was in 2011.
Entering last season, former Crimson Tide quarterback Phillip Sims and McCarron were fighting for the starting job. McCarron eventually won, and Sims was relegated to backup duty for the rest of the season. Now, with Sims having transferred to the University of Virginia, the situation behind McCarron is reason for a little concern. The Crimson Tide currently has no other quarterback on its roster with game experience.
Redshirt freshman Philip Ely and true freshman Alec Morris will be competing for the second-string position. Ely looked strong in spring practice, and he should have the upper hand on Morris when camp opens. However, Morris is a talented prospect and depending on how well he can grasp the offense when fall camp opens, he too could be a viable option as the second string quarterback.
The addition of new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier could add another dimension to the Alabama offense. Nussmeier has been a vital part of the development of a few talented quarterbacks during his time as a coach. Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker and former Pro Bowler and St. Louis Rams quarterback Marc Bulger both were coached and developed by Nussmeier during their careers. While his playbook will likely be similar to the one Jim McElwain used at Alabama, the Tide could be a bit more quick to go to the air in 2012. This should only help McCarron continue to build his confidence as the leader of the revamped 2012 Alabama offense.
All things considered, the Crimson Tide is in a very good spot at the quarterback position entering the 2012 season. AJ McCarron was recently named to the media’s preseason All-SEC third-team offense, and he should be able to build on the momentum he generated at the end of the 2011 season. One of the most consistent topics discussed by players during interviews in spring practice and at SEC Media Days centered around the impressive growth in leadership McCarron has displayed. That growth in leadership has a chance to play an integral part in the development of the offense.
Overall, Alabama has quite an advantage at the quarterback position. No longer breaking in a first-year starter, the Crimson Tide will be able to rely on McCarron’s knowledge of the offense and his ability to decide what checks and reads need to be made during the course of the game.
If the latter portion of the 2011 season is any indication as to what the Crimson Tide can expect from him, then the Alabama offense will be comparable to the product put forth in 2011. The growth and development of AJ McCarron and the experiences he gained by winning a national championship in 2011 should go a long way in the progression of the 2012 Crimson Tide offense. Simply put, the quarterback position at Alabama is in very capable hands.
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