McElroy Expects Successful Season
Last year as Alabama prepared to open the season against Virginia Tech, there were numerous questions about the Crimson Tide offense.
Who was going to be the tailback, replacing Glen Coffee? Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson,
Could Colin Peek adequately take over at tight end, where co-starters Travis McCall and Nick Walker had graduated?
Who would replace Outland Trophy winner Andre Smith at left tackle?
Who could handle the critical center position that had been in the hands of All-America Antoine Caldwell?
And, perhaps most important, could a quarterback who had never had a starter and who had nothing more than mop-up duty in any of his first three seasons at Alabama, take over for John Parker Wilson, who had set just about every Alabama record?
As we know, Mark Ingram took over at tailback and won the Heisman Trophy; Colin Peek made it to the cover of Sports Illustrated; James Carpenter, who took over at left tackle, is on the watch list for the Lombardi Trophy, given to the nation's best lineman; and William Vlachos is on the watch list for the Rimington Award, given to the nation's best center.
And Greg McElroy did what he has always done as a quarterback. He won.
McElroy directed the Crimson Tide to a 14-0 record and the national championship. He led a clutch, final drive to defeat Auburn in Auburn, and then followed that up with a Most Valuable Player performance as the Crimson Tide drowned number one ranked Florida in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game.
McElroy, a fifth year senior who is actually a second year graduate student after earning his degree in three years, is recognized by his coaches, teammates and opponents for his football acumen. Doing it in the classroom makes him a candidate for a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford in England at the conclusion of this season.
That season begins at 6 p.m. CDT next Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium against San Jose State.
In 2009, McElroy completed 198 of 325 passes (60.9 per cent) for 2,508 yards and 17 touchdowns with only four interceptions.
As Fall camp began, McElroy said he wanted to work on timing.
"It has been pretty good," he said as Alabama was winding up camp and getting into the game plan for San Jose State. "We've made some strides. It's definitely been a point of emphasis. I think I told y'all right at the beginning of Spring I really wanted to complete a high percentage of passes. So I think the timing's really helped with that. I've done a good job getting the ball out. Haven't taken a lot of sacks. Protections have been pretty good, which is key to the timing — getting your drop, getting set up and everything.
"Our depths with our wideouts have been good. We've been good pretty much on. I still think could make some improvements. I know it's kind of tough when things break down. We've got some pretty disruptive guys on defense that can kind of offset the timing a hair, but for the most part it's been good. We made some strides and I'm pretty confident with where we stand right now."
A year of experience is unquestionably valuable to a quarterback, and McElroy said at the beginning of August that he felt comfortable going into the 2010 season.
McElroy said, "I don't know if my role is something different, just to be a distributor, which is what a quarterback does. I think I've done a good job getting the ball in the hands of my playmakers faster. I think my decision-making has gotten a lot quicker. I don't hold the ball too long. I think that's helped our offensive line out a good bit and it's also helped our receivers. Just understanding where they're going to be.
"I think just after playing with those guys for a year now and understanding what their strengths and weaknesses are and kind of be able to anticipate what they're going to do on an option route or something like that, those are the things that really helped; really improved a lot from last year.
"I feel really confident throwing those right now. I feel very confident. I feel very under control. I'd like to be able to limit our turnovers a little bit. We've had a few too many turnovers in the passing game the last few days. It's a little bit frustrating for me as the quarterback. I haven't done a good job taking care of the ball in some cases. I don't know if carelessness is the thing. I think sometimes you get drawn into the wall of practice at this point and you're just not thinking every single snap, which is a real negative."
The confident quarterback concluded, "We should be well on our way to a successful season."
Almost everyone agrees with him. Alabama has been atop almost all pre-season polls to win the national championship again. And most expect Alabama to have a particularly dominant offense, akin to powerhouses like the 1973 Crimson Tide.
McElroy knows the Crimson Tide will have to be mentally prepared for 12 teams whose biggest game of the year will be against Bama.
"I think we're making strides towards becoming that prepared," he said. "It's a time and a process when a lot of teams have us circled on the schedule. We understand that. And being the defending national champions and having the success that we've had here the past couple of years, we understand what it takes to play at a high level, week in and week out, because you're going to get everybody's best shot. And that's just the nature of playing at Alabama. So we have experienced that in the past.
"Now, this is a little bit different, with teams in their preparation they will change up their game plans a lot in order to face us. But as far as the team is concerned, we're really heading in the right direction as far as being prepared week in, week out. But obviously, this being the first week, we're just trying to prepare for that one opponent and I know they're going to be very well prepared for us."
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