Croyle adds new dimension to Bama offense

Growing up the son of a Crimson Tide legend, Brodie Croyle thought he understood what Alabama football was about. But after arriving in Tuscaloosa the level of fan support surprised even him. <br><br>"I've always been an Alabama fan," Croyle said. "But when I came down here it was a whole new world.

"Coming from a small town and getting down here--there are some fanatics about Alabama football around here. But it's great. It's a lot of fun."

Currently listed second string on the depth chart, Croyle is well aware that traditionally the backup quarterback at Alabama is the most popular player among fans. "I've been around Alabama football enough to learn that," he said laughing. "But Coach Fran supports his quarterback. I really like that. He's going to be behind (Tyler Watts) whether he makes a mistake or not. That really takes a load off our shoulders when we're out there, whether it's me or not."

Croyle executes the option. He'll frankly admit that he's a better passer than runner, but Croyle is perfectly capable of executing Alabama's entire offense.

A redshirt freshman, Croyle was recruited by Alabama during the disastrous 2000 season. And he learned a hard fact about football fans. Croyle explained, "I didn't realize that quarterback was such a high-profile position around here. It can be fun, but at the same time it can be bad. My official visit was when Andrew (Zow) played Central Florida. I saw the fans go from loving Andrew in the Ole Miss game to booing him versus Central Florida.

"Quarterbacks can have it good and bad at Alabama."

No one (least of all Brodie) is questioning that this year's team will "belong" to Tyler Watts, but Croyle and his talented arm are too talented to keep off the field. Offensive Coordinator Les Koenning explained, "Brodie will definitely be a part of the offense this season. Brodie had a great fall camp. He really did. What we're trying to do is make sure that we can use every weapon that we have. From spring to fall we've gained a lot of confidence in our kids.

"Just like last year when we had Andrew and Tyler, we don't feel bad about playing any of our quarterbacks."

No official announcement has been made--nor is one likely. But there is little doubt that the Tide staff will look for ways to get Croyle on the field this season. "We haven't sat down and talked about Brodie's role in the offense yet," Head Coach Dennis Franchione said yesterday. "We always planned to evaluate him after two-a-days and before we started developing the game plan. But he's had a good camp.

Blessed with a strong and accurate throwing arm, Croyle adds a genuine down-the-field threat to Bama's offense.

"Brodie is certainly playing to the point where he's pushing himself into a role."

Of course players are always the last ones to know. "They haven't told me anything," Croyle said. "I'm just out there trying to get better every day. If I get in, great. If I don't, my time will come."

Rated at the time the top quarterback prospect in the nation, Croyle injured his knee in the first game of his senior season of high school. And since he redshirted last year at Alabama, the season opener against MTSU will be the first time in almost two years that Croyle has faced live action.

"It's been a long time," Croyle acknowledged. "I'm ready to get back out there and see what it's like again. It was big-time frustrating having to watch last year. Any competitor wants to be out on the field playing. Traveling to every game but sitting there watching--it got old.

"But I wasn't ready to play. I wasn't anywhere close to being ready to play last year."

Watching from the sidelines was hard, but he's happy now that he has a full four seasons left to play. "Now I'm glad I waited. Of course it really wasn't my choice anyway, but I'm glad I waited."

Perhaps determined to snuff out any "quarterback controversy" talk before it begins, Croyle is lavish in his praise of Tyler Watts. "Tyler is a great quarterback," Croyle said. "He's a senior, and I'm a freshman. He's earned the right to start. Just getting any playing time with him there will be a plus. It's always good to have a good backup guy in case something goes wrong with Tyler or if we get up real big, then I can come in and hopefully do some good things."

Shown cooling off during a break from fall two-a-days, Watts (left) and Croyle are competitors but friends.

Of course he and Watts bring a very different set of talents to the quarterback table, but Croyle sees that as a plus. "I may be a little bit of a change of pace," he explained. "I probably throw it a little bit more than Tyler. I may not run the option as much as Tyler, but we pretty much have the same offense. He's definitely more liable to run over a linebacker than I am. I might try a couple more moves than Tyler. He's probably a better runner than I am."

"Changing the look can mess people up," Croyle continued. "A perfect example was last year with Andrew and Tyler. Auburn was prepared for Tyler, and then Andrew was in there and bam, a whole new offense. Hopefully we can do pretty much the same thing."

The competition between Croyle and Watts is very real. But media members looking for behind-the-scenes fireworks will be disappointed. "We compete in anything we do," Croyle acknowledged. "But we've become real good friends. We go play golf probably once a week. We go fishing, hunting.

"But anything we do we pretty much compete at it."

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