Does Alabama have a viable backup quarterback?
Of course A.J. McCarron, a rising junior, will start. He had quite a debut last season as a first-year starter, going 219 of 328 for 2,634 yards with 16 touchdowns and only five interceptions. In the national championship game against LSU, he completed 23 of 34 passes for 234 yards without an interception and was named offensive MVP.
Not a bad way to start your college career.
But what if for some reason McCarron can't play one game? Whose name will head coach Nick Saban call?
If former five-star player Phillip Sims hadn't decided to transfer this spring, it would likely have been him, as that's whom McCarron beat out last fall for the starting job.
It could it be redshirt freshman Phillip Ely, a former three-star recruit who led his high school team to a Florida 5A state championship. Or it could be incoming freshman Alec Morris, a three-star player from Texas who led Allen (a perennial high school power in the state) to an 11-1 record his senior year, completing 61 percent of his passes for 3,242 yards and an interception-to-touchdown ratio of 6-to-35.
Alabama also has junior Ty Reed and sophomore Dustin Ellison on the roster.
Late in 2009, as Alabama was preparing for the SEC Championship Game, Saban was asked who Greg McElroy's backup was. Many assumed it was Star Jackson, a redshirt freshman. But Saban said that if he had to replace McElroy, it would be McCarron, then a true freshman who hadn't played.
As it turned out, the Crimson Tide did not have to use McCarron and burn a year of his eligibility and Jackson ended up transferring.
For that reason, one could assume Ely to be the practical choice right now and through fall camp. But don't discount the possibility of Morris, even if he doesn't play at all in 2012.
Saban will probably know exactly who will take snaps if McCarron can't. And if he doesn't know now, he sure will by Sept. 1. But it is important for coaches to have someone who knows all the plays and be ready to step in. Otherwise, things can take a turn for the worst.
Take Texas in the '09 title game against the Tide. Colt McCoy was knocked out at the start of the first quarter and Mack Brown had limited options. He could have used veteran backup Sherrod Harris, but instead he opted fore true freshman Garrett Gilbert and everyone knows what happened after that.
The following season, Gilbert played every single game for the Longhorns and they went 5-7. Brown never used a backup and later it was revealed that none of the backups even took reps with the first team in practice so they couldn't come in for Gilbert because they'd be clueless on the field.
Brown later admitted that he should have given the backups more reps so that they would have been more familiar with the offense.
Then there's the example of LSU last season. Jordan Jefferson's misdemeanor for being involved in a bar fight got him suspended for the first four games of the year. He didn't start again until Nov. 12. But in the meantime, Les Miles had Jarrett Lee ready and the Tigers were still able to win.
It's like those commercials for DirecTV that end saying, "Don't end up in a roadside ditch" and the way to avoid that is by getting DirecTV (of course).
The same can be said for a coach knowing who his backup is. To use Texas' 5-7 season as an example, one might say: "Know who your backup quarterback is so you don't go 5-7."
It doesn't have to be that extreme, of course not every team goes sub-.500 without a backup quarterback, but the message remains the same: Have a ready and waiting backup, or you may end up in a roadside ditch.
For more Alabama coverage, follow Laken Litman on Twitter!