There is no doubt about it, Junior Quarterback A.J. McCarron had an impressive regular and post season that saw him post one of the best quarterback ratings in the nation. He is the only quarterback to win two National Championships and be a part of three BCS Champioship teams. Since back up to Greg McElroy in the 2010 season McCarron has improved each season. Sure he has had a couple of slumps during a season (2011′s first LSU game) like any other player but he has proven that he can recover, recover well, and come back stronger. Alabama has been a run-first team the past few seasons, especially with running backs like Ingram, Richardson, Lacy, and even Yeldon. McCarron has done well with mixing it up with effective, accurate and smart play calling. He recognizes coverages, gets the offense into the right schemes when needed and has for the most part performed at a very high level.
McCarron, who leads nation with 173.08 passer efficiency rating, set a school record with 26 touchdown passes this season and he only threw three interceptions and went 291 pass attempts between interceptions. He finished the regular season with 2,669 yards passing and completed 66.8 percent of his throws, which helped Alabama finish second nationally in passing efficiency.
McCarron was similarly efficient as a junior in 2011, throwing for 2,634 yards, 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. Since taking over the starting quarterback role prior to that season, he and the Tide are 24-2. With the win over the Irish Monday night in the BCS Championship game he delivers Alabama its second consecutive BCS title.
Head Coach Nick Saban has consistently called him a good “game manager” and he has “done well and makes smart decisions”. McCarron has the ability to take care of the football, which is one of Saban’s primary pet peeves. To Saban, you loose the ball, you don’t play. And the junior McCarron has proven that he takes care of the ball. The Tide finished +13 in 2012, which ranks in the top 15 nationally. They turned the ball over just 15 times.
So, given that McCarron has performed well over the past 2 seasons, won two BCS Championships, SEC Championship, has great numbers when compared to other quarterbacks around the country, and has proven he can execute and perform at a high level in big time games. What is keeping him at Alabama? I know he said in December that he was coming back for his Sr. year, but that was before he went out and devastated the Notre Dame defense.
If A.J. were to enter the 2013 draft he surly would be selected early given the other quarterbacks that are coming out. His status just went up after Monday nights performance and his name is now recognized in most households (and NFL owners) around the country. What other quarterback is in this years draft that has proven what McCarron has? Geno Smith, who is listed as the top QB in the draft, he’s good, can run and pass but what NFL team runs his play style. He will have to go the NFL team specifically geared to his style (maybe the Redskins after RG3′s debacle)? Matt Barley, he didn’t play in his last few games which hurt his status due to injury and doesn’t come close to the credentials that McCarron has. Tyler Wilson is one that, to me, is capable of doing well in the NFL but he still hasn’t done what was expected of him and hasn’t performed under the pressure that the Alabama QB has. Then you get into the second and third rounds which if you look on paper just don’t match up.
So why come back? Three-peat, Heisman candidate, improved numbers? All are legit reasons and maybe all of those play into the reasoning. There is still time for the Junior QB to change his mind and enter the draft. Several of his teammates are leaving. Could he be successful in the NFL, most assuredly so given time and the right team. Is there a risk for him staying that could hurt his status next year (there is always a risk). However, could he improve his status next year with that Three-peat, or Heisman, and be the number one draft pick. Or, maybe the All-American, record holding, champion just wants to enjoy the ride and see how far he can take the Crimson Tide and create a legacy of his own. Should he stay with the Tide or ride off into the NFL sunset? He says he’s staying – will that hold with all that’s happened? Or are those Roses out in Cali calling his name one more time?
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