Willing to go, if needed

Alabama's quarterbacking situation has rapidly gone from serious to desperate. With one quarterback out and another doubtful, redshirt freshmen Brandon Avalos steps up to first team. <br><br>And Mike Machen, a player that before the season seemed a definite redshirt, suddenly must prepare to play.

"My redshirt year is important," Machen said. "But winning games is more important."

Having been out of football since 1999, the former minor-league pitcher just assumed he'd sit out this season, re-acclimating himself to football and learning the new offense. "I planned on redshirting," Machen acknowledged, "and the coaches had talked to me about redshirting. But when opportunity calls, you can't deny it. You've got to do what they ask you to do. That's more important.

Away from football since 1999, Machen chose Alabama when his minor-league baseball career ended.

"If I need to postpone to the future or lose my redshirt this year, then that's what I'm going to do."

If starter Brodie Croyle recovers enough to play, then Machen's redshirt would remain in place. But Croyle's left shoulder is beyond gimpy, and his availability this Saturday is very much in doubt.

Tide Head Coach Mike Shula joked about all the attention suddenly thrust on his former fourth-string quarterback.

"Before this week, all I could say definitely about Mike was that he had been doing a good job on the scout team," Shula said with a somewhat forced laugh. "He was nominated for Scout Team Player of the week. He's a hard-working kid, who's made a lot of improvement."

To help his head coach out, Mike Machen (pronounced "match-en") provided a personal scouting report. "I like to throw the ball," Machen said. "I'm not a running quarterback, but I can run if needed. I'm a big guy, so I feel like I can take some hits. I weigh 230 pounds, so I can take some punishment.

At 6-6 and 230 pounds, Machen looks like a classic pocket passer. "I'll stand in there and throw the ball," he said. "I have a strong arm. I'm going to stand in the pocket and try to make plays."

Along with Bama's other three quarterbacks, Machen made the trip to Athens last week for the Georgia game. However, he certainly never expected to put on his helmet. But when first Croyle went down and later Spencer Pennington, Avalos took over at quarterback.

And suddenly, Machen found himself next in line to play.

Before the second half of Saturday's game, Machen never had to think about trading his sideline baseball cap for a football helmet.

"It sort of seemed surreal," Machen said of the game. "Guys just kept dropping and dropping. I thought ‘Oh my gosh, I'm next.' I was excited, but it really didn't seem real. I just got here in January, and here I might be playing football for Alabama."

Given that he didn't take a single practice snap with the varsity offense last week, luckily Machen wasn't called on. But Bama's coaches must get him ready for next Saturday.

"Mike will have to take reps this week," Tide Offensive Coordinator Dave Rader said. "We're at the point where our third quarterback must (be ready). We've seen that because of injuries, it could happen."

Machen is familiar with the Tide offense, but defensive reads are the problem. He explained, "It's a matter of picking up the different defensive looks, different blitzes, that kind of thing. I know the offense well. It's just a matter of repping the offense against different defensive looks. That's the point I'm going to have to really speed up."

"Mike will have to learn the game plan," Shula added. "Regardless of who is in the game, we won't tailor it too much. Whoever is in the game will be able to execute."

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