Don't expect fans to let go of QB argument

If the fans are wearing Crimson, then it's a safe bet that some of them are arguing about the quarterback. But while they recognize the high-profile nature of the position, the current staff scoffs at any notion of controversy. <br><br>"We have a quarterback competition, is the way I put it," said Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Les Koenning. "Whoever is playing guard, whoever is playing center, whoever is playing tackle or quarterback--the best guy is going to play.

"That's our mentality. And choosing that best guy is part of our job."

Of course Koenning understands that Bama fans are going to go on arguing anyway, especially when the backup QB has a rocket arm like Brodie Croyle.

Senior Tyler Watts is a solid No. 1. At this point no one really argues the point. But his backup is blessed with tons of talent.

Koenning talked about his top two quarterbacks. "The attributes of those two guys are totally different. It's a unique situation. As a defensive coordinator, you've got to prepare for two different types of quarterbacks. What happens with Tyler and Brodie is it's almost like an Andrew (Zow) and Tyler deal. Opposing coaches don't know exactly what you're going to throw at them."

When he signed with Alabama in December of 2000, Brodie Croyle was rated the top high school passer in the nation.

Forcing opposing coaches to prepare for a two-headed quarterback can be a very good thing indeed, as Tide fans and a certain orange-clad coach discovered just last season. Having spent the week preparing for option-oriented Tyler Watts, Tommy Tuberville and his defense were caught unprepared with strong-armed Andrew Zow calling the shots.

With an ailing Watts watching from the sideline, Zow passed for 221 yards on 22 of 29 passing, including two touchdowns. "That was an advantage for us when we played Auburn," Koenning said. "They did not know who was going to be the quarterback, and I thought Fran did a great job of handling that.

"The element of surprise is always your best weapon, whatever way you can put it in there."

Though the concept of Alabama as an option team was vastly overblown (mostly by Tide opponents in recruiting), there is no denying that Tyler Watts can be dangerous running the football. His 564 yards had him listed among the SEC's leading rushers, and Watts rushed for 100 yards or more three times during the season.

On the other hand, young Croyle was the top-rated passer in the nation as a high school quarterback. "Let me tell you, Brodie has got an exceptional arm," Koenning said. "He really does. I don't want to say that and take anything away from the other two kids--because Tyler and Spencer (Pennington) are good throwers--but Brodie is exceptional in that area."

Though his ability as a passer is often overlooked, there is no doubt that Watts is one of the best running quarterbacks to wear Crimson.

Of course Croyle showed in spring drills that he can also be effective running the option. And Watts set the Alabama single-game record for completion percentage, by completing 80 percent of his passes in last season's South Carolina game.

"Tyler can throw the football and Brodie can run the option," Koenning said. "There is no doubt that the two can do both. But it's obvious which one is better in which area.

"When you watch passing drills, Brodie is a better thrower. When you watch them run, Tyler is a better runner."

And it's only logical that the Bama coaches will play to both players' respective strengths. "What we will do in play calling is utilize their talents," Koenning said. "We did the same thing with Andrew (Zow)."

Koenning maintains that tailoring an offense to suit the abilities of the personnel on the field is one of Coach Franchione's principal strengths. And given that every player has a unique mix of talent, he thinks that is an advantage in recruiting.

Koenning explained, "We want the public and any recruits to know that. I've been very fortunate to be around a lot of good coaches. We're willing to change. We're not hard-headed. We're going to recruit the kids that we want for our system. But the kids that we have we're going to develop them to the best of their ability.

"With the kids that we recruit in the future, if they can throw it, we're going to throw it. If they can run it, then we're going to run it. We've got to be smart."


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