What Will Be Legacy Of Tide's Wilson?
The subject of the Alabama quarterback in any year is never left dormant for long. It was raised again this weekend when it was announced that Crimson Tide senior quarterback John Parker Wilson has been named to the 2008 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award Watch List. Twenty-five of the nation's top senior college quarterbacks have been named to this list.
The award takes athletic performance into consideration as well as off-the-field values of good character, citizenship, scholastic achievement and strong leadership.
Wilson has been UA's starter at quarterback in each of the last two seasons. He has thrown for 5,651 yards in his career with 37 total touchdown passes. Wilson is closing in on Brodie Croyle's school records for career passing yardage (6,382) and career TD passes (41).
Other senior college quarterbacks on the watch list included: C.J. Bacher of Northwestern, Todd Boeckman of Ohio State, Rhett Bomar of Sam Houston State, Tom Brandstater of Fresno State, Hunter Cantwell of Louisville, Rudy Carpenter of Arizona State, Chase Clement of Rice, Chase Daniel of Missouri, Joe Ganz of Nebraska, Sean Glennon of Virginia Tech, Cullen Harper of Clemson, Graham Harrell of Texas Tech, Chase Holbrook of New Mexico State, Brian Hoyer of Michigan State, Will Hudgens of Memphis, Brian Johnson of Utah, Nate Longshore of California, Tyler Lorenzen of Connecticut, Stephen McGee of Texas A&M, Ben Olson of UCLA, Curtis Painter of Purdue, Mike Teel of Rutgers, Willie Tuitama of Arizona, Pat White of West Virginia, and Drew Willy of University of Buffalo. These quarterbacks were selected by a committee of well-recognized football experts from across the United States.
Matt Ryan of Boston College was last year's winner. Alabama has produced one Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award winner as Jay Barker was honored with the award in 1994.
There can hardly be a greater contrast than Wilson (or Croyle) than with Barker. From a skills perspective, Croyle and Wilson have much stronger arms and better fit the passing game. But Barker was the winner, quarterback of Alabama's last national championship team in 1992.
In medicine and now in politics we hear the phrase, "First, do no harm." That was the strength of Jay Barker. The Alabama teams of Coach Gene Stallings had many weapons with which to win, and Stallings did not want them to have to overcome a quarterback defect.
There have been recent comparisons of Wilson to Scott Hunter, Alabama's record-setting quarterback of 1968-70. Those were not good seasons for Alabama and Hunter has been given much of the blame, although it was primarily defensive deficiencies that led to poor records. Coach Paul Bryant changed the Alabama offense to the wishbone following the Hunter years. Along with a fine defense, the wishbone produced a decade of extraordinary excellence. Quarterbacks such as Terry Davis, Gary and Jeff Rutledge, Richard Todd, and Steadman Shealy were judged by the great seasons of the 1970s.
Wilson certainly has positives as he prepares for his third year as starting quarterback at Alabama. The statistical record proves that. This year he will have his third position coach and third offensive coordinator in as many years as Jim McElwain takes over from Major Applewhite.
Wilson can be expected to complete a lot of passes for a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns. What he must do to be remembered as a great Alabama quarterback is produce victories.
It has been said that the quarterback gets more credit and more blame than he is due. Wilson has been blamed for a handful of Crimson Tide losses because of his errors--taking sacks and fumbling or throwing interceptions--at critical times. If he eliminates those game-changing negatives, he may be in the running for the Unitas Award. And, more importantly, be remembered as a great Alabama quarterback.
The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award is presented annually to the nation's top senior collegiate quarterback by the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation, Inc. This prestigious award bears the name of who many refer to as the finest quarterback to ever play the game of football. Established in 1987, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award has previously honored 20 outstanding young men.
The 2008 winner will be presented with the award on December 5th at the Tremont Grand Meeting & Banquet Facility, in downtown Baltimore, Maryland.
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