Back-Ups Battle at Tide's Final Scrimmage

Brodie Croyle took the day off from Tuesday's scrimmage allowing the Crimson Tide's other two scholarshipped quarterbacks, Marc Guillon and Spencer Pennington, to battle for the number two spot behind Croyle. Both Pennington and Guillon got an equal share of series working with the first- and second- team offenses, and both struggled, especially in the first half of the Tide scrimmage.

"It's a big change going with the first-team offense," Guillon said. "They have a lot more confidence and they know what they're doing. You just feel kind of an air of confidence with the first team."

Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula didn't give the edge to either Guillon or Pennington following Tuesday's practice, and that's not a shock to anyone who follows football. But Shula did say that he hopes to reach a decision on who the back-up quarterback is in the next couple of days.

The coach seemed more disappointed with his squad's response to working without Croyle, but he wasn't surprised that the offense seemed sluggish without its starting signal caller directing them.

"It's happened everywhere I've ever been before," he said. "You take the starter out and the whole team starts to deflate. What happens when the starter goes out in a game?" Shula asked. "That's something we are going to talk about thoroughly tonight."

The squad ran approximately 30 plays of the scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium, before bright lightning and loud thunder caused Shula to move the squad to the Hank Crisp Indoor facility at halftime.

"Coach just talked about starting fast when we got (indoors) and picking it up," Pennington said. "I think mentally and physically both, on the offensive side of the ball, we stepped it up and started cutting out the silly mistakes and were a productive offense in here."

When asked if there was any separation for the right to be Brodie Croyle's back-up for Alabama's season opener versus Utah State, offensive coordinator Dave Rader gave a direct and honest answer, but not the one we were all looking for.

"I don't know," he said. "We'll watch the tape and we'll evaluate and see. Right now I can't answer that. That's kind of a cop-out, isn't it?"

Yes, it is. The videotape will show both quarterbacks completing seven passes – Guillon had 19 attempts for 77 yards and a touchdown, while Pennington had 60 yards on 13 attempts with one interception. The question, are these statistical differences meaningful in determining who will be next in line as the Tide's signal caller? Coach Rader:

"We're waiting to see the videotape to see how productive it was. We're going to wait to see the videotape to see how efficient we were, but it was really good work. We needed it and our unit needed it."

Pennington and Guillon are in the same boat, each waiting for film review before knowing his spot on the depth chart. And it's all but certain that whoever the back-up is, he will be called upon to play a significant role at some point this season. A year ago the Tide needed three quarterbacks to make it through the season.

"Everybody that comes here, they want to play," Pennington said. "Marc and I come in with the same attitude. If our number is called we want to step in and make plays, and we're doing everything in our ability to do that."

Today's scrimmage was of special meaning to the back-ups because it was each one's last, best chance to separate himself from the other. But there was no eye-popping explosion from either quarterback to proclaim one better than the other. And even after they know the tale of the videotape, both Pennington and Guillon will need to become as sharp as possible, because it's probable that they will both get a chance to play at some point.

"It's the same preparation as every day," Guillon said. "You prepare like you're the starter. It requires a little extra focus. I don't think, offensively, we had that focus today but we came in here in the barn and did some good things."

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