In the spring there wasn't any competition at quarterback because Croyle and 2003 back-up Spencer Pennington sat out, rehabilitating their respective shoulder injuries while Marc Guillon took all the snaps and received all the attention.
This fall, Shula finally got what he wanted. After spring, he said that Brodie Croyle would be the number one quarterback going into the fall, but "he will have to continue to earn it," Shula said. Croyle obliged, further separating himself from his back-ups by showing better decision-making skills and a superior arm.
In Alabama's first two fall scrimmages, Croyle completed 31-of-51 passes (.608 PCT) for 501 yards and nine touchdowns, while throwing only one interception. What's the best part about those numbers? There is still room for improvement.
The first-team offense had a sluggish second half of Saturday's scrimmage, which focused primarily on goal line and two-minute-drill situations.
"Obviously we didn't do as good in those situations, and that can come from a lot of things," Croyle said. "A lot of guys might have been tired, but whatever the situation, we've got to do better in both those areas.
"We've got freshmen receivers out there running two-minute drill who just now learning the numbers of the routes and now we're trying to teach them signals and trying to get them to translate that into a two-minute drill. They're coming on. They're all really bright guys and you can see what they can do."
Croyle's scrimmage numbers are tempered by the fact that he wears a yellow "no contact" jersey, emboldening him to stay in the pocket and hold the ball longer without the threat of being hit. He's also working primarily against the second-string Alabama defensive backs.
But Croyle can't hide a smile anytime he's asked about his receiving corps. Newcomers DJ Hall and Keith Brown have become popular new targets, but Croyle hasn't overlooked some of the "old hats" at wide receiver, true sophomore Tyrone Prothro and redshirt freshman Matt Caddell.
"You can see Hall and Keith (Brown) making big plays just by outrunning everybody, and that's something we've been lacking," Croyle said. "You can also see Prothro and Caddell who, when they get the ball, they're pretty fun to watch.
"I think these young guys coming in pushed Caddell a little bit; gave him a boost, and he really responded. He's more aggressive. He's going across the middle taking hits. Caddell's probably the most improved out of any of our guys, freshmen included."
Whether Alabama's passing success is the real deal, or an aberration caused by the differences in a controlled scrimmage and a game, will be determined at as the season plays out. But there's no doubt about Brodie Croyle being the Tide's best quarterback, and for the first time in the Shula era it's not a spot won by default.