Frosh McCarron Is Back-Up Quarterback

The redshirt can come off at any time. Alabama is preparing to play its 14th game on Thursday. It is the most important game of the year, and not just because of the coaching cliché-- because it's the next one. This is for the national championship.

And Alabama Coach Nick Saban said if necessary, he would play a freshman who has not seen action this year, which would cost the player a year of eligibility. Specifically, Saban was asked about the back-up quarterback if Greg McElroy was injured.

Saban said true freshman A.J. McCarron would see his first playing time of the year if necessary. He said with as much is as on the line at this point, he owes it to the entire team to play the best players.

Alabama will play Texas at 5 p.m. PST (7 p.m. central) at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena Thursday. Both teams are 13-0 with Bama ranked number one in the nation, Texas number two. ABC will televise the game.

"A.J. McCarron has been the back-up quarterback since the bye week (October 31)," Saban said. "It has been our plan that if we have to play him, we will play the guy who gives us the best opportunity to win the game, that's what we would do.

"Star Jackson would also be an option.

"We've gotten this far, so I think in fairness to everyone we would put the guy in the game who would give us the best opportunity to win. The person who has been the back-up quarterback needs to do that because he has performed the best, practiced the best, and put himself in that position.

I'm pretty certain that's the direction we would go in."

McCarron is a 6-4, 197-pound true freshman from Mobile, where he played at St. Paul's. Earlier in the season Saban was asked about McCarron's progress and the coach said the quarterback had been promoted from the scout team to working with the varsity.

Star Jackson, a 6-3, 206-pound redshirt freshman from Lake Worth, Fla., had been considered the back-up. He played in mop-up duty in five games this season, completing 13 of 18 passes for 116 yards with no interceptions and no touchdowns.

Saban said a couple of players had been ill. One of them is star linebacker Rolando McClain. "They are better today," Saban said. "They will go through walk-through today. If they continue to improve, they will play in the game."

The coach was asked if there was any chance McClain, a junior All-America middle linebacker, might not play.

"We're not going to let him play unless the doctors say he can play. If he's sick and dehydrated, he's not going to play in the game. I'm not going to put a player at risk regardless of what the circumstance relative to the game is.

"I think he's better today. He did not do much in practice yesterday. I don't think he's missed a practice in the three years he's been here.

"I think he's capable of recovering and being able to play in the game if he's medically cleared to play in the game.

"As a coach, we never get involved in whether a guy should practice or shouldn't practice (for medical reasons). The medical staff does that."

Although Coach Saban didn't report this, we have learned that Alabama is changing hotels today. There is much talk in the area about the nightmare that traffic to Pasadena will be on Thursday. The game is at 5 p.m. Pacific Coast Time, part of the big rush hour that clogs freeways.

When Alabama played at Auburn, the team stayed in Montgomery, ostensibly perhaps an hour away. But a traffic accident bottled up the interstate, including Bama team buses. Alabama was behind schedule -- not a great deal -- in getting to the game.

The Alabama media hotel is about an hour from Pasadena in non-rush hour traffic. The Alabama team hotel is about 15 minutes further away.

As a result, today Alabama will change hotels. The new hotel will be about 20 minutes from the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena. Texas will also change hotels today. Texas Coach Mack Brown said his team would move to a "ghost hotel" to be able to have quiet time.

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