The story has been told before of the Alabama football fan who told me during the middle of spring practice he was "glad that Nick Saban is standing up to the media and not letting them watch practice." In the next breath he asked, "How does Greg McElroy look?"
I don't think he realized the absurdity of asking me how McElroy looked since I was unable to watch practice. By the way: Saban doesn't have to "stand up to the media." He's the boss. He makes the rules about his practices. And to be perfectly honest, on this eighth straight day of temperature over 100 degrees, I can't say it has broken my heart to not be able to stand out there and watch practice.
In truth, I'm not qualified to determine how a player is doing in practice. I'm certainly not qualified to look at 100 or more players and know how they are all doing. But if I was watching practice, I might come to a conclusion of which quarterback was running first team and which was running second team. I might.
In addition to keeping the media away from his team's practices, Saban is also convincing when explaining there is no depth chart other than one to organize practice. He doesn't want a player demoralized by seeing on a depth chart that he is fourth team. (He also doesn't want a first teamer thinking he has it made.)
So I don't know how McElroy looks; even if I had seen him it would be folly for me to suggest he is second team. (In addition to John Parker Wilson, who is the returning starter and likely number one quarterback for organizational purposes, the only scholarshipped quarterback is true freshman Nick Fanuzzi.)
All that said, I am one of those who thinks McElroy, a 6-2, 218-pound redshirt freshman from Southlake, Texas, will be the back-up.
In last Saturday's scrimmage McElroy completed 16 of 26 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns and did not suffer an interception.
Following Tuesday's practice, and with no mention of McElroy or Fanuzzi or any other player, Saban was asked about his philosophy regarding playing the back-up quarterback.
Saban said, "I think it's important to have a back-up quarterback who is ready to play. If the circumstance presents itself where you have an opportunity to play a guy where he gets that experience without consequences for the team, I think that's good. I think it's good to show confidence in the guy if you get an opportunity. We will plan to do it, but we won't do it for the sake of doing it."
Later the coach was asked how McElroy had done in the scrimmage. The coach noted that a quarterback is often subject to the circumstances surrounding him. If McElroy is quarterbacking "against the first defense, maybe the offensive line is not quite as good or the runners are not quite as good or the receivers are not quite as good, that makes his job a little more difficult because timing breaks down. So he doesn't have the same opportunity to do things as the guy who is playing quarterback with better players.
"I thought he did a nice job. He made a lot of very nice plays in all aspects of the scrimmage," Saban said.