BCS Game Success No Surprise To AJ
A.J. McCarron had an excellent game in leading Alabama to its win over LSU for the national title. He completed 23 of 34 passes for 234 yards and for his efforts was winner of the Most Valuable Offensive Player Award. So when did he realize he had the game to defeat the previously number one-ranked Fighting Tigers?
"Honestly, I knew it was going to work a week before [the game]," McCarron said Monday following Alabama's second day of spring football practice.
"I felt really confident going into the game. I felt like I played that way the last time we played them, other than that one mistake. I missed some reads, but I feel like I took care of the ball for the most part. I made good throws, I just missed some reads and I knew I wasn't going to be able to miss any reads this game. So I just took it upon myself and coach gave me the opportunity and my receivers went up and made some plays for me."
McCarron and his teammates were back on the practice field for the second workout of spring training Monday. The first practice had been about 10 days earlier, before spring break. Spring practice ends with the A-Day Game April 14.
McCarron had an excellent first year as the Crimson Tide starter at quarterback, completing 219 of 328 passes for 2,634 yards and 16 touchdowns with only five interceptions. It was no surprise that he got better as the season went along.
Asked if there was a time when he thought things were beginning to "click," McCarron said, "I'd say it probably started in the Tennessee game. I could see everything happening. Even though I made a mistake in the Tennessee and LSU games, they just made good plays. They came out of nowhere. But other than that, I felt like the defense was slowing down and I was starting to see everything.
"I think that's one thing I learned from Greg (his predecessor at quarterback, Greg McElroy). He watched a ton of film and I kind of inherited that. I watch a bunch, a bunch of film. I'm always trying to see what they're going to do and learn what I have to do after I make my own mistakes."
Alabama is working under a new quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. After Jim McElwain left Bama for the head coaching job at Colorado State, he was replaced at Bama by Doug Nussmeier, who came from Washington.
McCarron said the offense in the spring has not had changes.
The quarterback is pleased with Nussmeier. "I love him," McCarron said. "He's a real personal coach. He's just like Coach Mac to me. We not only have a relationship on the field, we talk to each other on weekends. If he gets bored, he likes to call me, and we'll just talk. He's definitely a good guy, and I'm excited to be playing for him."
As for the early work in spring, McCarron said, "We look good. Same as always. Nothing different. Just some new faces. Everything seems to be clicking so far. Hopefully we can keep progressing."
He includes himself in the "keep progressing" category. Even though McCarron is surely firmly entrenched as the number one quarterback, he buys into the Nick Saban process, which is every man earning his job every day.
"My mindset is still the same," he said. "I didn't worry about what other people were doing last year. I'm not worried about what other people are doing this year. Like coach always says, if you play to the best of your ability, then you don't have to worry about anything. That's what I'm doing, pushing myself to get better in other places that I know I need to and go from there."
He does admit that things will be a little different this year in that he knows what's going to come through the season. "I'm probably a little more aware of how everything is going to happen," he said.
He does expect to be more of a leader this year. "I had to do that midway through last yar, and I'm one of the older guys – or as we say, one of the old heads – on the offense now. I have to push other guys and I have to be more vocal."
McCarron lost all of his top receivers, although Kevin Norwood and Kenny Bell had their moments last season. The quarterback said "We're going to have a bunch" of receivers. He named Norwood, Bell, and Christion Jones, and said "we're going to have to have some younger guys step up.
"I feel like we have a really good group of guys, not just on the field, but off the field I feel like everybody has a good head on their shoulders and this group of receivers seems to be a little closer together, which is definitely a good thing."
He said building chemistry with his receivers has already begun. Even during the off-season program, the Fourth Quarter, McCarron said on his days off he'd get with five or six receivers and "run routes to get our timing down."
McCarron hasn't let his national championship game performance go to his head. He said when he goes home to Mobile, "I still have to do chores. That's pretty much the same."
Actually, that seems to be a labor of love, looking after his younger brothers. There's one he doesn't have to look after, though. Corey, a tight end at South Alabama last year, has transferred to Alabama, where he is sitting out this year, but taking part in spring practice.
"It's awesome and it's kinda weird standing here getting reps in and looking to the side and he's standing there. It's definitely cool and it's definitely special. I mean I haven't played with him in a while, so it's a pretty cool experience."
McCarron was asked if he had ever been bothered by national media reports last year prior to the BCS game that Alabama had a weakness at quarterback. He wasn't.
He said he didn't read newspapers or listen to the news.
"That's my mom's job."
Is she vengeful?
"She takes notes."
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