The Little Pupil Coming Along

If the back-up quarterback plays, it's usually bad news. Greg McElroy's only playing time until he took over as starter was in mop-up situations. McElroy played every meaningful minute at quarterback last year in Bama's 14-0 season to win the national championship.

But that doesn't mean a team doesn't have to get back-up quarterbacks ready. When Alabama had its first scrimmage of spring practice last Friday, it was notable that Greg McElroy completed 14-of-22 passes for 235 yards and one touchdown. It was somewhat surprising that redshirt freshman A.J. McCarron, considered to be the number two quarterback, completed 21-of-28 passes for 229 yards and three scores.

Following Monday's practice, Bama's ninth of the spring, McElroy was asked about the back-up quarterbacks.

"The back-up quarterbacks are doing a really good job," McElroy said. "A.J. (McCarron) got a lot of good quality reps and I thought he did a great job out there. He was quick and decisive and got the ball out of his hand really well. It was very encouraging.

"He's kind of been my little pupil the past year and I've tried to teach him as much as I possibly know, which is similar what John Parker (Wilson) did for me, and I know I benefited from his coaching. A.J. continues to make improvements every day and I'm very, very proud of him. He takes a lot of pride in his work and he goes out there and works extremely hard.

"Phillip (Sims) is coming along really well. He's starting to play a little faster. The biggest difference for a quarterback is the speed of the game. He's starting to pick it up. He has all the physical talent in the world. The mental aspect and the speed of the game is where it's very different from high school to college. He's really coming along. He's doing a great job. He works his butt off. He goes in the film room and the classroom and also on the field. He's a joy to have.

"Star (Jackson) is doing well, also. He came back after a couple of practices he missed. He's been working hard. He's come back a different player, a different mindset. He's bought back into the program and we're really proud to see him make that transition."

McElroy was also asked about star receiver Julio Jones, specifically as to whether the Julio of this spring might be different than the Julio of last fall.

"I think it's safe to that he's a different player," McElroy said. "He's stepped it up tremendously. He's probably surpassed what he did as a freshman in my eyes because he knows how to work, he understands the system, and he plays with savvy, which is encouraging. He knows how to shed defenders and he's doing a great job with the ball in his hands after the catch.

"He's a dominant player and has been since he's been on campus.

"But he's really stepped it up big time as far as the leadership aspects are concerned. He goes out and works as hard as anybody every day. You have to appreciate that in a wide receiver. Even if he's not involved in the read, he's out there busting his tail, trying to get everybody else open. He's coaching guys up, teaching the younger guys, taking an interest in their improvement. That's always encouraging to a quarterback. I think all the other guys are starting to reap the benefits of what Julio brings to the table.

McElroy discussed a defensive spot that is being rebuilt and the only area of the offense where there will be several new faces in 2010.

As for the secondary, he said, "The secondary is doing well. They've made some strides. They are trying to get a feel for it. They are all playing a bunch of different positions, which is nice because having that versatility only helps you understand the defense better. They are really coming along, doing a good job. Coach Saban is putting a lot of emphasis on them tackling and things like that.

"As far as coverage is concerned, they always give us fits. That's encouraging considering how young they are. Physically they are catching up. In the next few practices they can continue to make improvement and we'll continue in the summer."

As for the offensive line, McElroy said, "Doing really well. Similar to the secondary situation, we've got a lot of guys playing a bunch of different positions just seeing what combination works best. They are really starting to pick it up mentally, which is really the biggest thing for the offensive line because physically all of these guys are big and strong and fast and athletic. It's the mental aspect -- getting your head in the right position, the communication aspect, things like that. That's what's difficult for the younger guys.

"Losing experienced guys like Mike Johnson and Drew Davis, guys who did a good job mentally, communicating up and down the line. That's where we're trying to pick things up right now. I think the guys have really done a good job of filling in physically. It's just the mental aspect, and we have a long time to prepare. They'll spend a lot of time the rest of the spring and the summer working mentally, as well as the fourth quarter program. We'll be ready to go and they are looking good and a lot of guys are able to play different a bunch of different positions. They are very versatile. It's encouraging for me as a quarterback."

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