McCarron Being Prepared To Play

Many, many years ago in an important college football game, Alabama Coach Paul Bryant inserted the second team quarterback into the game at a critical time. As it turned out, the quarterback, Steadman Shealy, delivered a long drive that ended in a touchdown and was critical to success.

Those in the network television booth were going crazy over the substitution by Bryant. Was the starting quarterback hurt, or was there some other reason. Later the coach explaned, "Steadman wants to play, too."

Alabama under Bryant had a far different philosophy on use of players than is common today. It was not unusual for Alabama to play 75 or more players a game in the 1970s. Today it is more likely to be closer to 50.

And the back-up quarterback goes in which the starter is hurt or some team is so hopelessly put away that the starting quarterback is removed for reasons of keeping him safe.

Greg McElroy was in the back-up role for a couple of years. Last year he became the starter and delivered a perfect season, 14-0 and the national championship.

Today there is no quarterback on the Alabama roster who has taken a snap in a college game.

But that doesn't mean the back-up quarterback is not being prepared.

A.J. McCarron is considered the likely back-up. He's a redshirt freshman from Mobile. Behind him is Phillip Sims, a true freshman who went through spring practice. And behind him may be Blake Sims, a true freshman who is listed as a defensive back but has had quarterback work, and walk-on Morgan Ogilvie, the son of former Tide great Major Ogilvie.

But it is McCarron who has drawn the most notice, in part because of an excellent A-Day performance, in part because he's got the mythical abilities of all back-up quarterbacks, and in great part because of Coach Nick Saban's surprise announcement late last season that if Bama had to go to a back-up quarterback, that man would be McCarron. Until then it had been assumed that Star Jackson was the back-up. Following spring practice, Jackson transferred.

McCarron understands the nature of preparation. Just because the back-up quarterback may not be playing in games doesn't mean he isn't being prepared.

"I think our coaching staff does a great job of getting our back-up QBs ready," McCarron said. "That's what we practice for. If you can do it in practice, you can do it in the game. The crowd is the only difference, really. You've still got people coming after you wanting to to take your head off. I think our coaching staff has done a great job of getting us ready, and so has Mac (Greg McElroy)."

McCarron has nothing but praise for McElroy. "I've learned a tremendous amount from Mac," he said. "I love him to death He's like an older brother to me. He's taken me under his wing all last season -- still is. He teaches me a lot about the game, on the field and off the field. In the film room, what to watch about certain teams, things like that. He's a great role model for me."

McCarron is also pleased with his position coach, Offensive Coordinator Jim McElwain. He is pleased that McElwain continues at Alabama. Many expect McElwain to land a head coaching job in the near future.

"All I can hope for is I have more years to come with him," McCarron said. "I know he's a great coach. I'm just glad we've got him for right now. That's all I'm worried about."

Like all Tide players, McCarron understands that the 2009 team won the national championship, not this team. "Our coaching staff does a great job of that, putting that in our heads," he said. "The older players, especially, do a great job of letting everyone know that was last season. This team -- the 2010 team -- has to make its own identity and I think that's huge that our team does that."

McCarron said that his work in practice is geared on being "‘Play the best I can play.' As long as I play the best I can play, things will fall into place. I can't worry about what-ifs and stuff like that. I'm going out every day preparing like I'm the starting QB and hopefully things will go the way I want."

One thing the 6-4 McCarron has done is put on weight. He's up to "204, 206. I came in about 180, 184, so I've put on about 20 pounds, which is really good for me."?

McCarron was outstanding in the A-Day Game. He quarterbacked the second offense (against the second defense) to the win in the Crimson-White game. He passed for a team high 196 yards and two touchdowns, including one on the last play of the ‘game,' in an improvised sudden death.

And that gave McCarron some ammunition for McElroy, who was quarterback on the other side. McElroy is famed for having never lost a game in which he was the starting quarterback, 16 in high school and 14 at Alabama.

"I mess with him," McCarron said. "I tell him, ‘Your first loss was to me."

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