McCarron Took Big Step At Quarterback

What a difference a year makes, particularly a national championship year. And for quarterback AJ McCarron, the national championship game made a big difference, too.

In fact, it is likely that the performance by Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron in the BCS National Championship Game will be important for the entire Crimson Tide team looking ahead to 2012. McCarron was the Offensive Most Valuable Player in the 21-0 win over LSU that earned Bama its 14th national championship.

This time a year ago, it was no cinch that McCarron would even be Alabama's quarterback. Indeed, it was not a sure thing that he would be the starter in the first game up until kickoff, and he probably didn't nail down the starting position until his play in a road win over nationally ranked Penn State in the second game of the season.

But after McCarron completed 23 of 34 passes for 234 yards with no interceptions and was named the BCS National Championship Game Offensive MVP, the most important position on the football field is solid as the Crimson Tide of Coach Nick Saban prepares for spring football practice.

Alabama will have 15 days of practice, including three scrimmage days, in March and April. The third and final scrimmage will be the public A-Day Game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Practice is tentatively scheduled to begin Friday, March 9, the day before the start of spring break. The second practice will be the day after spring break, Monday, March 19. The A-Day Game will begin at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday, April 14, and will be televised by CSS.

McCarron, a 6-4, 205-pound upcoming junior, had a very solid season in his first year as a starter. He finished third in the Southeastern Conference in passing (219-328-5 for 2,634 yards – 202.6 per game – and 16 touchdowns), fourth in pass efficiency, and third in total offense.

That doesn't mean quarterback play won't be a point of emphasis in spring practice. McCarron can certainly improve, as he improved during the course of the season.

And this spring he will be under a new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Jim McElwain has left Bama to be head coach at Colorado State. Taking his place and working with the Tide in the spring will be former Washington assistant Doug Nussmeier.

There are two other scholarshipped quarterbacks in camp.

Most of the conversation regarding Phillip Sims since the end of the season has been whether Sims, who is an upcoming sophomore, would stay at Bama as a back-up. The former prep All-America is by all accounts happy at Alabama and will continue to work behind McCarron.

Last year Sims, 6-2, 217, saw action in eight games, all but the opener merely mop-up work. He completed 18-28 passes with two interceptions (both in that opening game) for 163 yards.

Also participating at quarterback in spring practice will be redshirt freshman Phillip Ely (6-1, 187).

This season doesn't have the anticipation of a quarterback race that was the case in 2011, but spring practice will be a time to get all the quarterbacks better.

This is one in a series looking as Alabama football positions prior to the start of spring football practice.

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