Unquestionably, the number one quarterback for Alabama is Brodie Croyle. Although Croyle did not have spectacular numbers in either his freshman or sophomore seasons, there are extenuating circumstances. As a freshman he was the back-up to Tyler Watts, and the offense of Coach Dennis Franchione was designed for an option/running quarterback, which Watts was and Croyle is not. Croyle was thrown into battle primarily because of injuries to Watts. This past season Croyle (as all other offensive players) did not have the benefit of spring practice with the current offensive coaching staff, and the offense installed by Head Coach Mike Shula and Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Dave Rader was far, far different than the offense the Mike Price staff had been using in the spring. The offense also was quite incomplete due to the lack of time in pre-season practice. Additionally, Croyle suffered a severe shoulder injury during the season (separation of his left, non-throwing, shoulder). He missed a handful of games and was at considerably less than peak health for most of the others. He had surgery at the conclusion of the season.
Croyle's back-up was Spencer Pennington. Pennington, who was in Price's doghouse in the spring for his desire to play baseball, got even less work than Croyle in the new offense installed beginning in August. Pennington got one start this year after Croyle went out with a shoulder injury, but in that game against Georgia he suffered a severe separation in his right (throwing) shoulder. He, too, had post-season surgery.
Brandon Avalos (who also split spring time as a member of the baseball team) was dismissed from the football team late in the season and was reported to have withdrawn from The University, making his return unlikely ever. Avalos was the third team quarterback, got almost no work in the offense until injuries brought on crunch time, and probably is not suited to the Shula offense in any event. He did have one start in 2003 because of injuries to Croyle and Pennington and went the distance in a win over Southern Miss.
With the expectation that Alabama will have none of the three men who played quarterback available this spring, it is likely that transfer Marc Guillon will receive particular attention and an extraordinary opportunity to raise his stock.
Other quarterbacks on the Alabama spring roster are redshirt freshman Michael Machen, a former pro baseball pitcher from Mobile, and redshirt freshman Zach Golson of Prattville. Both are walk-ons.
The January issue of ‘BAMA Magazine, expected to be in the mail from the printer during this holiday period, has a feature story on Guillon. Here is some information from that article, as well as some information from CaneSport, a publication covering Miami football. Guillon originally signed with the Hurricanes and played a year in Miami before transferring to Alabama just before the start of this year's football season.
During Alabama's open week last fall, Coach Mike Shula opened up Bama's normally-closed practice session to families of Bama's players and to members of the A-Club, primarily former Crimson Tide football players, but also others who have been inducted into the club (including ‘BAMA Magazine Editor Kirk McNair, the only journalist to witness an Alabama practice live under Shula).
Croyle and Pennington were both held out of practice that day with injuries. Many of the former Bama players gathered behind the area of the practice fields where the quarterbacks were working. Very quickly the topic of conversation became "Number 18." Marc Guillon.
The former players saw a quarterback who stood in the pocket, reading the defense and searching for his receivers, then quickly delivering a strong, accurate pass.
Guillon is a 6-3 1/2, 210-pound quarterback who played high school football at Miramonte High School in Orinda, California. Although born and raised in Chico, California, Marc and his mother, Debbie, moved to Orinda prior to Marc starting high school so he could play for Coach Floyd Burnsed. Burnsed had an excellent reputation for developing quarterbacks. In fact, the senior quarterback in Guillon's freshman season was Ken Dorsey, who preceded Guillon to Miami and now plays for the San Francisco 49ers.
Marc's father, Doug, did not move with Marc and his mother, but it wasn't a big problem. Doug, a real estate developer who works throughout the Far West, has his own airplane and was just a half hour from Orinda, which is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Chico.
Guillon had an excellent prep career. He passed for over 2,200 yards and 23 touchdowns with only seven interceptions while leading his team to a 13-0 record as a senior. He had passed for over 2,550 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior. Before even beginning his junior season, he made the decision to attend Miami.
And where did the Guillon family celebrate his scholarship offer to Miami?
"As fate would have it, we went to celebrate at Shula's Steakhouse after getting the offer from Miami," Mr. Guillon said. "Don Shula happened to be there that night with some of the former Dolphins and it was great."
Guillon had a relatively short career with the Hurricanes. As a true freshman last year, he hoped to be second team, behind his old high school quarterback Dorsey. But Derrick Crudup came into the picture and bumped Guillon to third. Then, last year, the Hurricanes picked up a transfer from Florida, Brock Berlin.
Guillon played in two games as a freshman last year, completing three of five passes for 53 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. But then he was out of action after aggravating an old high school shoulder injury. He was granted a redshirt season.
Guillon went through spring practice, and was still with the Hurricanes deep into fall practice. "But," he said, "I really wasn't happy there." The arrival last fall of Kyle Wright, a promising freshman, further limited Guillon's quarterback practice time.
Although there have been numerous reports that Guillon selected Miami over Alabama, that is a bit of a stretch. It's true Guillon (whose mother has relatives in Tuscaloosa, including her mother and sister) attended a football camp under Franchione. But, he said, Brandon Avalos, who also attended the camp, was more suited to the Franchione offense and it was Avalos who was offered and accepted a scholarship. Guillon's final original recruiting choices were Miami, Southern Cal, and Tennessee.
Guillon thought about Tennessee when he elected to leave Miami, but finally decided on Alabama. (Tennessee indicated it was not going to give Guillon a scholarship. He did have a scholarship offer from Baylor, and interest from West Coast schools.) Guillon had been a longtime Alabama fan, and distinctly remembers the joy of watching Bama dismantle the Hurricanes in the Sugar Bowl for the national championship at the conclusion of the 1992 season. Earlier that year he had stayed at Bama's team hotel in Tuscaloosa prior to the Vanderbilt game and had gotten Coach Gene Stallings, quarterback Jay Barker, and other members of the Crimson Tide to autograph his football.
Guillon had kept up with Alabama, including the Mike Price saga and the hiring of Mike Shula as head coach. Guillon said, "I didn't know Coach Shula personally, but I knew he had been a quarterback at Alabama and had been quarterback coach for the Dolphins. That was a major attractant for me."
Guillon received a release from Miami, flew to Birmingham where relatives picked him up and brought him to Tuscaloosa. He provided the Bama staff with a video of himself, primarily from a summer workout. He met with Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula and, as Guillon put it, Alabama "went out on a limb and gave me a scholarship."
Guillon ran the scout team in the fall, and will be catching up on the Alabama offense this spring. After sitting out in 2003, he will be a sophomore in football eligibility next fall with three years in which to play.
CaneSport spoke with Guillon's private quarterback coach, former NFL offensive coordinator Roger Theder. The publication said Guillon went to Theder for advice and that Theder's first inclination was that Guillon should stick with Miami. But after it was clear that Guillon was not going to stay, Theder tried to guide him "to not make a second mistake. That's where I gave him advice. He doesn't know coaches like I do. there are certain people I feel strongly about and who do a good job with the quarterbacks."
Theder gave a thumbs up to Alabama and Mike Shula. And he is confident Guillon will succeed with the Crimson Tide.
"Marc is a very talented kid," he said. "He's probably the most athletic one I've ever had when you are talking about an athlete who can jump and run. He has great feet. He could line up at receiver and play for anyone. He's that talented."
But don't look for Guillon to be a running quarterback at Alabama. "If I have to, I can," he said. "But I prefer to stand in the pocket and throw it to some athletes."
Miami Head Coach Larry Coker said he did not attempt to talk Guillon out of transferring. Coker said Guillon had already made up his mind, and called it a "mature" decision. He also said he was disappointed to lose Guillon.
"We hate to see him go but we wish the best for him," Coker said. "I'm very disappointed. He's a good player, a good person; he's good for any program."
Fellow Californian and Miami quarterback Kyle Wright told CaneSport, "I was real sad to see him go. He's a great guy. We wish Marc the best of luck. He was like all of us, came in and worked hard all the time."