Quarterbacks Will Know The Drill

Part of the pre-game ritual at Bryant-Denny Stadium is the announcement of starting line-ups. It would not be a huge surprise if that practice did not include the starting Alabama quarterback when the Crimson Tide hosts Kent State in the season-opening game a week from Saturday.

There are a number of positions on the 2011 Alabama football team where it is not certain who the starter will be, notably those spots where last year's men have graduated...from college and/or to the NFL.

There's no unknown at tailback. Trent Richardson will take over for Mark Ingram. There is mild interest in who replaces Julio Jones at wide receiver, or who will start in place of Darius Hanks at another wideout. Hanks is missing the first two games to make up for having played one game in his 2007 redshirt season.

Left tackle? Yes, that's a position of interest. Will it be Barrett Jones, a two-year starter at right guard, or true freshman Cyrus Kouandjio? Or someone else?

The burning question, though, is quarterback. Greg McElroy had two steady seasons, including quarterbacking Bama to the 2009 national championship. He has earned two degrees from Alabama and is working on his doctorate in quarterbacking with the New York Jets.

The two-man race to replace McElroy started last winter in the Fourth Quarter Program, continued with spring practice and the summer off-season work, and through fall camp. It has included more than football skills.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban has said time and time again that both sophomore A.J. McCarron and redshirt freshman Phillip Sims have the physical tools to play, that he has confidence both can lead Alabama effectively.

He has also intimated that Alabama could be a two-quarterback team, though perhaps only for a few games.

Saban was asked how he would manage a game with two quarterbacks. Would they alternate plays or series or quarters?

"I don't think that's something we've made a decision on yet," Saban said. "I think when you make that decision you try to do it with the effectiveness of the players in mind. I don't want either guy if they do play or when they do play that they think if they go in and make a mistake that the other guy is going to come in.

"That is not how it is going to be managed.

"We'll let them play, we'll prescribe how they are going to play, they'll know how they are going to play, and they'll have an expectation going in of exactly what they are going to do when they are in there. I think that's probably the most important thing at the end of the day."

McCarron or Sims will get his first college start on Saturday, Sept. 3, when Alabama hosts Kent State. Kickoff will be at 11:21 a.m. CDT with regional television coverage on the SEC Network.

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