Spring Outlook: Quarterback options limited

No question one of the biggest ironies surrounding Spring Practice will be the dual realities that Bama's quarterbacks desperately need the time to learn as much about the Tide offense as possible--but both Numbers 1 and 2 will be significantly limited by injury.

The Tide returns two of the three quarterbacks that saw action during the 2003 season. Though still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, Brodie Croyle and Spencer Pennington will both at least be on the sidelines. On the other hand, Brandon Avalos is now enrolled at Shelton State and plans on playing baseball there this semester. It's possible that Avalos could re-enroll at The University in the future, but even if that happens he will probably be a baseball-only athlete at that point.

Redshirt sophomore Marc Guillon sat out last season after transferring in from Miami. He mainly ran the scout team but showed flashes during once-a-week scrimmage work. After giving up a brief career in Minor League Baseball, Mike Machen joined the Tide football squad last January. He was one misstep away from playing versus Southern Miss, as Avalos and he entered that game as Bama's only two healthy (and eligible) QBs. But Machen sat out the year as a redshirt.

Marc Guillon will have every chance (and then some) to show the Tide coaches what he can do this spring.

According to the 2004 spring roster, five athletes are listed at quarterback:

  • Brodie Croyle
  • Spencer Pennington
  • Mike Machen
  • Marc Guillon
  • Zac Golson

Taken in total, the additions of Machen and Guillon would more than make up for the loss of Avalos. So on paper at least, Bama's current roster of eligible quarterbacks is stronger now than last fall. But that ignores the hard realities of twin shoulder injuries to Croyle and Pennington.

Given their limitations, the Tide will be painfully thin at quarterback this spring. Hopefully nature (and Dr. James Andrews) will see to it that Bama's quarterbacking corps is both talented and deep in the fall.

Saying that both Guillon and Machen have a "Golden Opportunity" this spring to prove themselves to the Tide coaches frankly is an understatement. In major-college football--with coaches giving their starter and back-up the lion's share of practice snaps--the third- and fourth-string quarterbacks can easily get lost in the shuffle. Just ask Guillon about his experience with the Hurricanes.

Pennington's rehab is going well, but it can't go fast enough for him.

But that certainly won't happen this spring.

Guillon and Machen together can be expected to take most of the "live" snaps this spring with the varsity offense, including probably 100 percent of the ones that could conceivably involve any contact.

Croyle's surgery was to his left (non-throwing) shoulder, and it didn't involve as much "deep cutting" and repair work as Pennington's. Plus, Croyle's procedure was done earlier than Spencer's. That puts Croyle ahead in his rehab.

Last year's starter, Croyle showed flashes of brilliance. But though injuries can be rightfully blamed for many of his problems, there is no question he needs to improve in virtually all aspects of the game. Croyle says he intends to be there every snap this spring, even throwing during non-contact work. The doctors will have a say in that, but look for him to push for as many snaps as he can get.

The fact that Croyle is several weeks ahead in terms of rehabilitation is frankly a problem for Pennington. They're good friends off the field, but don't think for a minute that there isn't a fierce battle going on between the two redshirt juniors. And Pennington knows he can't afford to give up a single snap. He'll be at practice as well, pushing for snaps just like Brodie.

Machen will get tons of reps this spring.

Don't expect to see any straight jackets or other medical restraiints used on the Thomas-Drew Practice Fields this spring. But there will probably be more than a few (figurative) wrestling matches involving Croyle/Pennington and the Tide doctors.

As athletes, they want to be out there. And as competitors, they go nuts watching teammates taking "their" practice reps. But in this case the doctors are both the "grownups" and the "experts." Despite much of what has been written, the quarterback battle will NOT be resolved until the fall.

Both Pennington and Croyle would do well to have that message tattooed on their foreheads this spring.

In the "Penny-wise but Pound-foolish" category, it's impossible to overstate how important it is that both Bama's junior quarterbacks start fall camp completely healthy and ready for the season. A few practice reps in the spring--no matter how satisfying they may feel at the time--are meaningless (even frivolous) when viewed in that context.

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