McCarron Works To Be Even Better

AJ McCarron didn't get many individual honors last year. He had to be satisfied with being the first quarterback in the BCS era (and one of very, very few in any era) to lead his team to back-to-back national championships. He was also a member of the 2009 team, and has three championship rings in four years.

And there was this. A.J. McCarron not only led Alabama to its second straight national championship, McCarron also led the nation in passing efficiency as he completed 211 of 314 pass attempts (67.2 per cent) for 2,933 yards and a school record 30 touchdowns against only three interceptions.

Crimson Tide Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Doug Nussmeier put an even finer point on it. On passes of 30 to 39 yards, McCarron completed "80-plus per cent; and then over 40 yards, 57-plus per cent. That's pretty impressive when you talk about pushing the ball down the field."

Nussmeier was responding to a question about McCarron dedicating himself in the off-season to strengthen his lower body in order to increase velocity on his passes.

The Tide coach said, "As in anything we do, you start with the big picture. We've got to do things right to give ourselves a chance. And one of the things we talk about at that position is playing winning football. The first thing is, ‘I've got to take care of the football and be a good decision maker.' And then as you grow, then it becomes about the smaller things, it becomes about technique-type things. With AJ, we dialed in on several technique things that really we think can help take his game to the next level. And I can't say enough about how focused he's been."

McCarron, an upcoming senior from Mobile, gave credit to Strength and Conditioning Coach Scott Cochran "for a weight program that has been outstanding for me." The quarterback said that he had stayed between 215 and 220 all summer and "I've benched more than I ever have, squatted more than I ever have. Overall, my body fels the best it has felt since I've been here."

And, McCarron said, it has shown up in his passing.

"Definitely. I'm getting more zip on the ball with my deep ball; I don't have to put so much air under it," he said. "That was the biggest thing with me, working on my lower half. Everyone thinks all your power comes from your arm. ‘Boy, he's got a strong arm!' That's not it at all Talk to any old school QB, anybody who plays the game and knows what they're doing. You get your power from your lower body."

As fall camp has begun, McCarron said his goal is "Just being the best I can be. Being positive when I can be positive, and also knowing when to chew guys out. The only time I get on anybody is when I know they know what to do and they do the wrong thing. One of the good things is we've got a bunch of older skill guys and I can get on them and they know how to react to me."

Although it might seem there are no limits to what McCarron can accomplish, he said he has to have prioriies. McCarron is the Tide's only quarterback with any meaningful experience. He was asked if he could help with the youngsters behind him.

"I'm helping them as much as I can, but I don't know what all I can do," he said. "I'm here for them and they know that. They can come ask me anything. At the same time, I've got this season to worry about, so I can't worry about everybody else right now that's behind me and coming up after. Right now I'm trying to focus on this year and my job and being the leader of this offense. But they know if they need anything -- any help on the field or anything off the field -- that I am here for them."

That's really Nusssmeier's job, and the Tide's assistant coach discussed it. He said, "At any position, there's a learning curve. At quarterback, it's bigger than most. Our system is a pro-style system so there's quite a bit more learning to do than in other systems.

"What we're looking for is a daily progression - to watch those guys grow each and every day. We really feel like they've progressed from at the end of practice 15 in the spring to where we started on day one. A big thing we talked as a group leaving the spring was we have to make improvement over the summer so we didn't have to go back and start over again. We wanted to grow from where we were. Like at any position, the more you grow, the better you get and you find consistency in performance. That's really what we're looking for there, so every day we're evaluating and trying to find consistency in performance."

McCarron said he has benefited from his two offensive coordinators, Jim McElwain, how head coach at Colorado State, and beginning last year Nussneier.

"Coach Nuss helped bring me along with my footwork; that's one of the things he focuses on and he's done a great job with that and I can't thank him enough," McCarron said.

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