McElroy Deserves His Opportunity

Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Jim McElwain met with reporters Sunday to discuss Crimson Tide fall camp. Although the conversation was in great part football philosophy, McElwain did discuss work at various positions.

McElwain got several questions about another Mac, Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy. McElroy will be McElwain's fifth quarterback in his past five years of coaching. It would be an understatement to say the coach is high on the player. McElwain said McElroy deserves the opportunity he has to be Alabama's quarterback.

"He's a team guy," McElwain said. He also pointed to McElroy, an upcoming football junior, earning his degree in three years and graduating magna cum laude. "That tells a lot about the character and the intelligence of what he is," McElwain said.

"He deserves the opportunity. That said, I don't put any expectations on him. He's responsible for orchestrating what we need to do offensively."

McElwain said he isn't necessarily concerned with numbers of "touchdown passes and those type things. I look at it as efficiency. What are you doing in an efficient manner to help us win? Your risk to reward factor and how you handle that. There are certain times you take a risk, there are certain times you don't need to take the risk; you need to take the efficient throw. I look at it from the standpoint, if we're going to throw it 30 times a game, 25 of those should be completed, with maybe a couple of them as a throwaway, maybe a tipped ball or something like that. That's how we must approach it. I still believe you win the game with ball control. I still believe you win the game through field position — and the heck with the numbers. But being efficient is probably the number one thing at that position."

McElwain said, "Playing the quarterback position takes a certain mindset, a certain persona. It certainly takes a personality. We're not putting any pressures on Greg. I don't see that as a problem. He has been here, he has been through the system, and I think that is really going to help him."

One doesn't have to be too sophisticated to realize that a need as great as replacing John Parker Wilson at quarterback is Bama finding new players in the offensive line to fill the gaps left by the departures of All-Americas, left tackle Andre Smith and center Antoine Caldwell, and right guard Marlon Davis.

McElwain pointed to the need for the unit to be not just talented, but also "cohesive." He said, "I think the one thing that makes offenses great is the offensive line. I love those guys to death. When we give weekly awards as an offense, we give the awards to the people that don't show up in the box score. Some guy catches the pass and he's all over the TV or newspaper, or some guy gets a long run. That guy gets his name in the paper. It's those guys and the importance of those guys, that's how we reward it here, is making sure that the guys that don't show up in the box score, that do a great job to get somebody's name in the box score, those are the guys that we make sure are honored in front of our team. Getting those guys to work together. We're starting to put those parts in place and here in another week I think we'll have that settled.

"I think every year you're going to have new pieces and every year you've got to find out what one of those pieces, their strengths, their weakness. So you expound on the strengths of certain pieces and not expose the weaker pieces. The great thing about having our offensive staff that has a lot of experience and a lot of different systems, we're able to blend some things that really work to the strengths of those parts. Obviously, last year that left tackle was a strength, so let's play to that strength. Now, where is our strength going to be this year? That's what we'll determine in camp. But that's a definite thing. Will you see the exact things from last year? No, because we don't have the same parts. I wish I did in some cases. But the case is we don't."

Last year the offense frequently included the use of two tight ends, usually Travis McCall and Nick Walker, both departed. McElwain was asked if this year's offense would be more likely to continue with two tight ends or if, instead, the primary formation was more likely to include a third wide receiver.

McElwain said, "What we're trying to do is create depth at each position right now. First of all, not only find out who the initial will be, but who that second guy, third guy is gonna be because you never know. Guys, we went through a season last year, quite honestly, we didn't have a lot of injuries on offense and were able to stay pretty solid. Now when we start working toward developing which spot for that third and sometimes fourth wide receiver now, where you can get more depth, and not necessarily the two tight ends, so those are things that obviously we're looking at. We messed around a little bit in the spring with. We'll see how that develops."

And, of course, McElwain was asked about sophomore wide receiver star Julio Jones, but primarily in the contest of "Who else?"

McElwain said, "That's kind of what the whole discovery is. Everybody wants to hear a name. This isn't fantasy football. It's the Alabama Crimson Tide. So which one of those receivers is going to step up in each one of those different roles? That's why we have two-a-days. I didn't know at this time last year. I couldn't have said that Julio was going to be what he was. Especially for these young guys, it's about how they handle -- I don't care about how many stars they had on the end of their name -- it's how they handle that change from high school to college. The speed of the game. How they handle the intensity of practice. How they come every day and prepare themselves to get better and not be up and down. That's why we have practice."

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