Walk-Ons Can Play Key Role For Bama

There has been more than a little pre-season conversation about the back-up quarterback position at Alabama this year. Nevertheless, almost nowhere has the name Ty Reed been mentioned in the quarterback battle.

Understandably, not too much thought is given to the walk-on football players on an Alabama team that is stocked with highly recruited scholarshipped players. We'll take a closer look at walk-ons in this two-part series.

Dorothy Franco was an outstanding two-sport player for Alabama in the 1980s, a member of the Crimson Tide volleyball and women's basketball teams. Now she is Dorothy Franco-Reed and her son, Ty Reed, is a 6-1, 190-pound junior quarterback at The Capstone. It is very likely he is the first Bama football player ever from Rocky Hill High School in Connecticut.

Even though Alabama is thin in experience at quarterback with only starter A.J. McCarron having ever played in a college football game, it is not likely that Reed, a 6-1, 190-pound junior, or another walk-on quarterback, Dustin Ellison (6-0, 180-pound sophomore from Monroeville) is being counted on for the Michigan game. Or any other game.

To be honest, it is not likely that Reed or Ellison or any other walk-on at the most important position on the field will be a star. But it can happen.

In the mid-1980s, injuries seemed likely to keep David Smith from his dream of ever playing for the Crimson Tide. In his senior year of high school at Gadsden he suffered a knee injury in the second game. He went to Tennessee Military for a year of prep school and suffered a broken collarbone.

Smith enrolled at Alabama and went through spring practice in 1984. Mike Shula was the returning quarterback, but wasn't participating because of a broken ankle. But four others were ahead of Smith. By the next fall he was seventh on the depth chart and didn't dress for any games. But by the next year he had moved up to second on the depth chart.

Prior to the 1987 season Smith earned a scholarship and the starting job at quarterback. He went on to earn SEC Back of the Year and in the Sun Bowl at the end of the 1988 season he set an Alabama bowl record by completing 33 of 52 passes for 412 yards in a win over Army.

Walk-on quarterbacks are almost always relegated to scout team work. That does not mean they are not important, though. This year, for instance, both returning redshirt freshman Phillip Ely and newcomer Alec Morris will need to be with the Alabama offense, getting snaps and watching and learning the Tide plan. Thus, walk-on quarterbacks must direct the scout offense against Tide defenders.

Even a college football team with a large number of outstanding scholarshipped players such as Alabama has a place for walk-ons to play. In Part II of this article we'll look at those positions.

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