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2013 Alabama Football Preview: A look at QB A.J. McCarron & the backup situation

Alabama Football Preview 2013: Quarterback AJ McCarron a Heisman Trophy candidate for the Crimson Tide
Alabama Football Preview 2013: Quarterback AJ McCarron is a Heisman Trophy candidate for the Crimson Tide

Guest Post Alabama Football Preview by Joshua

Right now, the Mighty Alabama Crimson Tide are the “New England Patriots” of college football. But at his point in the 2013 season, the Tide is just like any other college team in the nation. Everybody is undefeated. But what sets Alabama football apart? As Bama sets it’s sites on the new season, it does so eyeing a third consecutive national championship, its fourth in the last 5 years.

The question is, will Alabama be able to three-peat? Taking a close look at Alabama’s 2013 roster should help us answer this question as Alabama head coach Nick Saban has said, “The challenge of college football comes from the annual roster turnover,” an annual reality that can be as high as 25 percent. The 2012 season ended with the loss of 13 major contributors this Alabama team, not including the four players dismissed following their involvement in a second-degree robbery scandal.

So let’s start this Alabama football preview with one of the most important positions…quarterback. Bama currently has six on their roster. As the only senior quarterback on the team, A.J. McCarron comes into the 2013 season as a third-year starter and a legitimate Heisman trophy candidate; two facts that should give Alabama great hope for its offense this season. However, will the pressure of being a Heisman candidate obstruct a much larger goal of winning a National Championship for McCarron and the Alabama offense? One would think so, however, over the last three years McCarron has evolved from the dreaded title of “game manager” into becoming a playmaker, and team leader in the process.

Evidence of his playmaking abilities showed up in passing efficiency, where he led the nation last year. McCarron completed nearly 67 percent of his passes, racking up over 2,800 yards, and breaking a school record of 30 touchdowns, all while throwing only three…three…picks on the year. A feat achieved by only three other quarterbacks since the 1950’s.

McCarron should also have a strong support system this year as junior Blake Sims and sophomore Phillip Ely resume their backup roles, as well as strong-armed Alex Morris, who some said had the best spring among all backups at the position. The two bring experience and leadership to Alabama’s 2013 team. Three promising freshman quarterbacks also entered the fray, as Cooper Bateman, Parker McLeod and walk-on Luke Del Rio mark the beginning of competition for a starter in 2014.

Next year at this time questions will center on who will be the Tide’s next starting quarterback, but with that question firmly answered for this campaign, it’ll be interesting in 2013 to see who gains Saban’s trust in that backup area. During Saban’s tenure at Alabama, backups have been relegated to cleanup work at the end of a blowout. Some programs choose to use their backups early in games to get them experience. Not Saban. So it’s difficult to get a clear picture of what we have in the tank at backup QB.

Expect redshirt freshman Alec Morris, incoming freshmen Cooper Bateman and Parker McLeod to contend for the back-up position throughout the 2013 season. Ely has played sparingly in his short career at Alabama, playing in six games and completing 3-of-4 passes for 42 yards and a touchdown. Junior Blake Sims has the most extensive resume, which again in Saban’s system doesn’t say much. But it’s the running dimension that Sims adds to the Alabama offense. Of 105 men on the Alabama roster, Sims is a true athlete. Bruce Miller, who coached Sims at Gainesville (Ga.) High School vouches for Sims athletic ability, stating, “I’ve been in it 39 years, and he can do it all. There’s nothing on a football field that he can’t do.” LINK

Running Back, Quarterback, Kick Returner, the junior has an armada of talents he brings to the field. His very first days at Alabama were spent at defensive back, a position known for its need for speed and agility. Currently, the 6 ft., 212 lb. junior spends his days practicing at quarterback, looking to be the second option behind McCarron. His stats show versatility with the football with 187 yards on 30 carries and 5-10 passing for 77 yards in 2012. Sims is a player that has such an impressive running game, that you tend to overlook his throwing ability. He eclipsed 2,000 yards in two consecutive seasons in high school, falling just 933 yards short of McCarron.

What do you think? Do you think AJ McCarron has a chance to win the Heisman? What about his chances of leading Alabama to a repeat? What about Alabama’s backup QB situation? Is Blake Sims the best option? Or should Alabama look to one of the younger players as a backup? Share your thoughts below and check back as we continue our look at Alabama football 2013.

14 thoughts on “2013 Alabama Football Preview: A look at QB A.J. McCarron & the backup situation”

  1. The Heisman race is another story. AJ McCarron could be the all-time winningest (of championships, anyway) QB with stats breaking all records at one of the winningest programs in the sport’s history, but that doesn’t mean he’d win the Heisman. I’m not going to rant about the Heisman and what it means (and what it doesn’t mean), but I don’t think AJ McCarron will win the Heisman. Maybe he should, but whatever, hopefully he doesn’t worry about that part in 2013 and take too many risks for the sole purpose of boosting his Heisman chances.

    As for backup QB’s, Cooper Bateman is where I start. Alabama somehow recruited a huge QB recruit…from Colorado? Or was it Oregon? Spain? I can’t remember, it’s so far away. The fact alone that Alabama recruited him says a lot, but the reality that he never swayed from his recruitment and enrolled early says everything I need to know about the guy when it comes to taking risks with a new QB.

    But then there was the Spring game.

    Look, I never can tell from A-Day. I remember seeing this guy named AJ McCarron play vs Phillip Sims and leaving BDS so excited just knowing that Sims was going to be our new quarterback. That AJ kid isn’t working out, I thought.

    Next thing you know, he’s a living legend in Alabama football history.

    This year at A-Day I saw a lot of QB’s puke all over the field (except maybe AJ). It was confusing. Is the defense just that better?

    Well, no, they’re not. The defense is great, but the QB’s were making terrible decisions and awful execution, and sometimes both. That’s what it looked like to me anyway, but I’m the guy who thought AJ McCarron would be our 3rd backup a few years ago.

    So I say the bottom line is it’s in the players’ hands to improve and the coaches’ hands to train them and pick the right guy(s). I wouldn’t have picked AJ, but Nick Saban and company knew he was the one to go with. Frankly, at this point I have to trust them. They’ve earned it. Hopefully we’ll often be winning football games by enough points for our backup QB’s to get some in-game experience and decision making.

    The QB race at Alabama is Nick Saban. Roll Tide.

    1. Conduit,

      I came away from that A-Day convinced that Sims was going to win the starting position. I based that on a gut feeling that the two guys were not that far apart on the field in that game and A.J. had a bit more experience in the system. In other words, I thought Sims was ahead of A.J. at the same point in their careers.

      Fast forward and we see A.J. McCarron is quickly becoming one of the best quarterbacks of our generation.

      Pretty soon, we can all argue about who is the better college QB–McCarron or Tebow or Cam. It will be sort of like NFL fans argue about Manning or Brady or Brees.

  2. Alex Morris. He is big and has a big arm. He is the future. Del Rio is also interesting. Sims is only situational. He is a great runner but his passing stinks. Bateman is too green it seems just based on the A game. Ely–I would love to say he is it, but he just does not have the arm strength to be the future and reps in games should go to those who could take over from AJ in 2014

    1. I tend to agree regarding Morris. Of course, Alabama probably has more to pick from than at most times in its post-Bryant or post-Perkins era.

    2. No doubt about Morris. I watched him in high school, and he has a big-time arm, athleticism, and a good head on his shoulders. He’s going to be special, but unless McCarron gets hurt, Morris won’t see significant action until next year.

  3. Alabama football fans better pray to the heavens
    that AJ does not get hurt this season!! Sims is not
    the answer for the 2nd string QB or Ely. The
    Morris kid is the future QB who will replace AJ in
    2014!! RTR

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  6. I think people are putting way too much fear into the backup situation. As long S AJ gets us past VT and aTm I think Sims, Morris or Del Rio could take us the rest of the way undefeated. The first 3 games after VT and aTm is all it would take to get any of them up to speed. Loss of AJ would cost us about 14 points per game at first, and in those games we could afford it. Those three qb’s have talent and only need a short time with the confidence of starting to get their shit together. Bateman on the other hand has talent but is a true immature freshman. Saban saw something in Morris that no one else did. I would love to see him after gaining the confidence of starting. Can anyone say Cammy Cam. Del Rio I am really interested in seeing him get his opportunity. To think that a famous coaches son and Elite 11 qb from the other side of the country would give up a scholly at spread offense schools to walk on and pay his own way at Bama, is just fucking awesome. I wish that man all the luck in the world. RTR!

  7. McCarron will have a tougher trek this year. Sure he has an arsenal of weapons that is just plain scary. But he also has to work behind a line that will have some obvious growing pains. In essence, A.J. will be taking home some bruises this year.
    Don’t get me wrong, given time A.J. is a surgeon who dissects the competition at will. But my concern is, will he get as much time this year as he has been afforded in the past.
    Blake Sims is a fine back-up and given more playing time he would show that he can win too. After those two everyone else on roster is green to the system and the playbook and thus under-developed. Saban will not be playing anyone past Ely this season.

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