Greg McElroy Puts In Long Hours

People may blame the quarterback for a team's offensive problems, but no one can say Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy isn't putting in the hours. It's almost as if he has a full-time job, albeit a volunteer job. (This week, that's "volunteer" with a lower case "v.")

Alabama had been expected to have an outstanding offense this year. It hasn't been awful, but it hasn't been steam-rolling opponents, either. In Southeastern Conference statistics, the Crimson Tide ranks third in scoring offense, fifth in rushing offense, fifth in passing offense (though second in passing offense efficiency), and fourth in total offense.

Frankly, better things were expected. Bama returned eight starters on offense, including 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram at tailback. The Tide had fifth-year senior quarterback Greg McElroy, all-star wide receiver Julio Jones, and three offensive line starters (including the two most important, center William Vlachos and left tackle James Carpenter).

McElroy assessed the Alabama offense. " It hasn't been explosive," he said. "We're just capable of more. We demand a lot more of ourselves as an offense, and I know we're capable of a lot more."

This would be a good week for Bama to show improvement. The Crimson Tide goes to Knoxville Saturday to take on Tennessee. Alabama is 6-1 overall, 3-1 in SEC games, while the Vols are 2-4 overall, 0-3 in the league. ESPN will televise the game beginning at 7 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. central).

"I'm looking forward to playing the game," McElroy said. "Obviously it's a rivalry that means a lot not only to us as players, but to our fans and the people around the state. It's one of the older rivalries that Alabama's been a part of. It's a game that we look forward to. Neyland Stadium's a special place, and any time you get to play on the third Saturday in October, it's definitely a special time for us as players. It's a big reason why you come here."

(The game was traditionally on the third Saturday in October, but this year it is on the fourth Saturday.)

McElroy suffered his first loss as Alabama's starting quarterback in his 20th start two weeks ago at South Carolina. Everyone expected the Tide to roar back after that defeat, but the offense sputtered as much in last week's win over Ole Miss as it had in losing at South Carolina.

"Out-of-sync might not be the right word," McElroy said. "We just need to have a better week of preparation leading into the games on Saturday. We have to have better focus, better determination, better effort in practice. That should lead to better outcomes.

"Our timing's a little off in the passing game. We haven't been hitting a lot in the running game. Our checks haven't been perfect. We just need to do a better job in all facets of the game to be a more successful offense. It's a total combination.

"That's the thing about our offense, that's the thing about all offenses, we have to try to preach balance. Right now we just haven't had that balance. We've just been a little off balance. We've just got to get back to doing what we do best, and that's running the football and establishing the line of scrimmage and completing passes when they're there to be completed. We haven't done a good job of any of those phases to this point."

On paper at least, McElroy has looked pretty good the past two weeks. He has completed 44 of 59 passes (74.6 per cent) for 534 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

"There are times when the stats don't tell the whole story," McElroy said. "I've played okay, but I'm a perfectionist. That's just the way I've been. I just demand a lot of myself and I know I can play better than the way I've played the last couple of weeks. In order to be successful in the long run, you have to kind of look at the glass as half-empty as opposed to half-full. Although we have had some production in the passing game from a statistical standpoint, there's just things that we could have done better. Instead of 315, we maybe could have had 400. Obviously you don't want to look at it like that, it's not always about numbers. But there have been opportunities missed, opportunities we haven't taken advantage of, and those are the things we need to try to improve on. Coach Saban always does a good job trying to learn from your mistakes. We need to try to do that as an offense and I need to try to do that as an individual as well."

McElroy said he is "playing with a lot of confidence. I think we all just need to play with a lot of confidence. I think that starts with me, and I've got to try to get those guys to feel confident in me. If we can just get everybody to have confidence in me and have confidence in our offensive line and me having confidence in our wide receivers...I think we just lack the trust in each other right now. We just need to get that back."

He added, "I've got to do a better job of getting off to a fast start."

No one can accuse McElroy, an exceptional student who earned his degree prior to his junior season, of not spending enough time preparing.

Although NCAA rules limit time players can spend in mandatory football activity to 20 hours per week, McElroy is a super volunteer.

"I spend an awful lot of time up here (the football meeting and film rooms and offices)," he said. "We spend 20 hours a week with our coaching staff. I get here around noon each day and leave around 7 at night, so about seven hours a day minus Fridays and Saturdays. So it's very close to a full-time job."

Fortunately, McElroy said, he doesn't have much homework as a graduate student. "It's mostly just projects and long term papers and things like that. I mostly just try to space them out over an extended period of time and knock things out accordingly."

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