"He's very good as a quarterbacks coach," Croyle said. ">
"He's very good as a quarterbacks coach," Croyle said. ">

Croyle comfortable now

New Tide Head Coach Mike Price arrived on campus with a stellar reputation for developing quarterbacks. And after the first week of spring drills, quarterback Brodie Croyle rates his approach a double "thumbs up." <br><br>"He's very good as a quarterbacks coach," Croyle said.

"You don't want somebody getting in your face yelling and screaming," Croyle explained. "You have to be even-keeled no matter what happens. Whether you throw a pick or a touchdown, you have to be the same person."

It's not that Price doesn't care about mistakes--quite the contrary. He just believes in the old Southern expression that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Brodie Croyle explained what happens after a mistake. "Coach Price will come up and say ‘Hey, you should have seen this read earlier.' Or after an interception ‘You should have gone to the other side.' He won't say a word about the pick.

Surprising no one, Croyle has clearly taken over as first-string quarterback this spring. (Associated Press)

"For me as a quarterback that makes it much better."

With an entirely new offensive system to master and precious few weeks to do it in, Croyle and the other Tide QBs made certain they began spring practice as prepared as they could be. "With a new system and a new coaching staff, you want to impress them," Croyle said. "You want to know your job, and quarterbacks have to know everyone else's jobs, too. We have to know when we can block the defense and when we can't. So far it's really been fun."

Last Saturday was Bama's first scrimmage work of the spring. Running the first team offense, Croyle began the morning by driving the length of the field for a touchdown. En route drive he completed four passes, including a touchdown to Zach Fletcher.

"We started off really good," Croyle acknowledged, "but by the end we were wearing down. That scoring drive was before the defense figured out what we were doing. But I think we had a good day for a first scrimmage."

There were plenty more positive plays on offense, but the rest of the morning the Tide defense generally held sway, keeping the offense out of the end zone. Croyle's final numbers were 8-of-12 passing for 76 yards and one touchdown. Comparing the performance to two years ago, Croyle came away positive.

"If y'all will remember my first spring, which was Coach Franchione's first spring, our first scrimmage the quarterbacks threw nine interceptions, and we didn't score a touchdown. We didn't even kick a field goal. To see what we did last Saturday, it's really promising for the fall."

Croyle (left) and Spencer Pennington (#13) talk during Saturday's scrimmage. All of the Tide QBs have their work cut out for them learning the new offensive system.

Coach Price estimated Monday that less than an eighth of the new plays have been installed. Croyle commented, "We just have a base offense in right now. We don't have that much to counter what the defense is throwing at us. By the time the season comes around we'll have crossing routes to attack the holes the defensive secondary is leaving."

Croyle played in 12 of Bama's 13 games last season, earning starts in consecutive games against Arkansas and Georgia. In mainly a backup role he finished hitting 60-of-123 passes for 1,046 yards and five touchdowns. Croyle averaged 17.4 yards per completion and had 14 plays of 25 yards or more and four that were 50 yards plus.

Despite those good statistics, as a pure pocket passer Croyle was never entirely comfortable with the previous staff's base offensive set. However, that has definitely changed.

"I'm actually feeling very comfortable with the new offense," Croyle said. "We've been watching film and working on it in the off season. Once spring got here, I was ready to go."

With the new offense geared to set up the run via the pass, Croyle and the other Tide quarterbacks have been throwing the ball significantly more in practice than in seasons past. "The arm is fine," Croyle said. "I've been working toward this in the winter. We do a lot of warm-ups and a lot of exercises. They definitely know how to take care of a QB's arm."

Croyle also addressed two minor equipment issues, different this spring from last.

He doesn't exactly like the new yellow quarterback jerseys, but given the alternative he can live with them. "They're kind of on the feminine side," he noted candidly, "but they're better than the black ones--I'll give them that. Those black jerseys got really hot."

New Head Coach Mike Price brings a strong reputation for developing quarterbacks with him to Tuscaloosa.

"The defense says we should wear pink, since they can't hit us," he continued laughing. "They rag us pretty good. I can take the yellow. At least everybody knows it's us."

And he is definitely glad to be rid of the knee brace, mandated by the previous coaching staff. "My knee feels great," Croyle said. "That knee brace really slowed you down--and really made you think about the injury. Now every once in awhile I'll hit the knee and think ‘Yeah, I did have surgery on it.'

"The (new) coaches said we didn't have to wear them. And as you can see none of us have them on."

In Bama's first scrimmage Croyle came away with only one touchdown pass. But on several other deep routes he was just off the mark--more a matter of timing than anything else.

Under Coach Price on every passing play at least one receiver will run a "hero route," so called because a completion will always result in a big gainer. "We're using those routes already," Croyle noted. "And with play action the routes can get real deep. We'll get them worked out."

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