Football Fight: Quarterback

Most college football teams are counting on a first team quarterback, and circumstances that would put the number two man under center would put that team at a disadvantage. Going into the 2006 season, it appears that the number one quarterback is vital to Alabama success

John Parker Wilson is Alabama's starting quarterback. The sophomore hasn't started a football game since 2003 and has only limited back-up experience at the most important position on the field. On paper, this looks like a big dropoff from having had Brodie Croyle as the starter going into the season the past four years.

Wilson, 6-3, 210, saw action in four games last year. Although he completed a pass in each game and had touchdown passes in two games and ran for another touchdown in a third, he had very few plays. And while he completed 63.6 per cent of his passes, that's a statistic based on low numbers.

For the year he was 7-11 passing for 98 yards. It's not inconceivable that a quarterback could put together similar numbers in about a quarter of play.

Crimson Tide Coach Mike Shula has said that it is not critical that Wilson win games for Alabama. He wants his young quarterback to make good decisions, getting the ball into hands of play-makers and not making mistakes that would put Bama's relatively inexperienced defense in bad position.

A quarterback with exceptional skills such as those possessed by Wilson but with the lack of experience Wilson has reasonably can be expected to make mistakes, usually by attempting to do too much (see Croyle as a freshman and sophomore). Although Wilson was generally productive without mistakes through spring practice, in the A-Day Game he had two interceptions that drew post-game comment from Shula.

Wilson's teammates report that he was very good in summer pass skeleton drills. Perhaps more important than his passing performance, the players praised his leadership traits.

If Wilson can stay healthy and if he is mature enough to avoid critical mistakes, the quarterback position that many are writing off as a negative for Alabama in 2006 could be a strong point for the Crimson Tide.

There are problems behind Wilson.

Number two quarterback Marc Guillon has more experience than Wilson, but last year was third string on a team that rarely went beyond Croyle at quarterback. His 2005 statistics: 0-1 passing. As a sophomore in 2004 he took over as the starter when Croyle went out with a knee injury, but had two ineffective outings (losses to Arkansas and South Carolina), and suffered a back injury. Even after he rehabilitated, he did not see further action. The 6-3, 197-pound senior completed 20 of 43 passes (46.5 per cent) for 191 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions in 2004.

Guillon did not help himself when he suffered a knee injury in the spring. And prior to off-season summer workouts he broke a bone in his throwing hand and did not participate in all pass skel work.

Beyond them there is zero experience. Jimmy Barnes got more practice time than might have been expected in the spring, but the 6-5, 230-pound redshirt freshman had virtually no work in Bama's offense last fall when he ran the scout team. He did participate in pass skel work this summer, taking the second offense in the absence of Guillon. Although he didn't have a great spring game, he did have a decent spring, winning the Bart Starr Award as the most improved quarterback.

When you talk about lack of quarterback experience, look no further than incoming freshman Greg McElroy. Although he was Texas 5A Most Valuable Offensive Player last year, the 2005 season was his first as a starting quarterback. McElroy, 6-2, 210, is surely in the pre-season Alabama plans as a redshirt and a scout team player.

Editor's Note: This is the final installment of our summer series in which we looked at the Alabama depth chart position-by-position.

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