McElroy Can Talk The Talk, Too
They've been called audibles and check-offs and checks. In Alabama football parlance, it is called "check-with-me." It is the manner in which the quarterback changes the play at the line of scrimmage.
Following Alabama's 35-7 win over Arkansas Saturday, Alabama Coach Nick Saban said, "When people play middle of the field coverage that means there's nobody behind the corners. Split safeties means the corners are up and there's somebody behind them. If you're going to play with that, live and die with that all the time, you have got to put some pressure on the corners and make them cover you.
"There were a lot of check-with-mes today. I think a lot of the deep passes were called, but there were a lot of check-with-mes today."
The "me" in "check-with-me" is Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy.
McElroy said the check is pre-determined. In the huddle he will call two plays: the play of choice and an alternate play if he doesn't like what he sees when he surveys the defense. "We say, ‘Kill It! Kill It!' and move to the next play, and I'll tell them what the play is."
McElroy tells the offensive line. At that point it is up to the center, who has already made the blocking call when he gets to the line of scrimmage. to change the blocking assignments.
"We already know our assignments on the ‘check-with-me' but when Greg changes it we start over and make the call," said center William Vlachos. He said sometimes the change is to a new play and sometimes it's just a change in direction.
McElroy also makes sure he gets word to the running backs. "If the wide receiver sees me kill the play, he knows what's happening and he knows his assignment," McElroy said.
McElroy pointed out that it's easier to make the check at a home game when the crowd is cooperating and staying relatively quiet when Bama is calling signals. "When we're on the road it might be a little more difficult," he said. "But we get 100 per cent communication almost every time. We haven't had any backs go the wrong way or have a blocking assignment busted, anything like that."
Thus far, the check-with-me calls have changed a running play to a different running play or to a pass play or a pass play to a running play. But McElroy expects to have a call changing a pass play to another pass play in the near future.
McElroy said, "The offense has done a really good job in our communication. I think they feel strongly enough in my preparation to be able to run those type of situation plays."
There was another play where McElroy had to get the job done with communication. Asked if a play "stuck out" in the Arkansas game, the quarterback said, "Obviously the touchdown passes were nice, but I think probably the one thing that went unnoticed was getting (Arkansas) to jump offsides. That was something I was really happy about. That's a momentum-killer for them. They pin us within the one-yard line. That's tough. The fact we were able to get them offsides gave us a free five yards. From there we were able to take it the distance (99 yards in 13 plays) for a touchdown. That was really encouraging and pleasing."
McElroy said he used "voice inflection, the volume and tone of your voice," to draw the Razorbacks offsides. He noted that there is a residual effect. "Those guys had to kind of sit back a little bit," he said. "Anytime you draw a team offsides it goes for only five yards, but they have to be conscious of that for the rest of the game. They won't jump off the ball as quickly as they were. It's a big play, especially when you start a 99-yard drive."
McElroy added, "I was really happy that guy hit William as hard as he did. William deserves to get hit every once in a while."
William Vlachos, who is McElroy's roommate, was hit by the Arkansas defender who jumped offsides. "I took a big hit," he said, "but I'd rather take the hit than be on the one-inch line, so it was fine."
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