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CFN SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On Bama’s Spring
Alabama QB A.J. McCarron
Alabama QB A.J. McCarron
CollegeFootballNews
Posted Mar 24, 2011


With spring ball kicking in, we start rolling out analysis from each team's off-season sessions. Check it out as CFN's SEC Bloggers give you five different perspectives on some key questions facing the Tide this spring. Who's going to be under center? Who needs to step up their play? What does the D need to show to return to national title form?


SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On VU’s Spring
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On UF’s Spring
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On USC’s Spring
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On Hogs’ Spring
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On LSU’s Spring
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On UGA’s Spring
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On MSU’s Spring


Billy Gomila: On who’s under center for the Tide come September, and why

Nick Saban has always charged his quarterbacks with the bare minimum. Manage the game, avoid mistakes and don’t ruin his defensive game plan. It’s a style that definitely favors the "more experienced" hand of A.J. McCarron. He’ll have to lose the job as much as Phillip Sims will have to win it.

Sims does have a talent edge. If he can prove he can manage the Trent Richardson-heavy attack, McCarron won’t simply coast into the starting job.

A major key will be who has the better rapport with the younger receivers on the team, as a new No. 1 target will also have to emerge. However, history suggests McCarron will come out on top.

This spring pay close attention to how many gaffes McCarron makes, more so than anything positive he does. If he keeps the mistakes to a minimum, it’s his job.


Brian Harbach: On what position is undergoing the biggest overhaul

Alabama lost important pieces all over the field... The offensive line lost LT James Carpenter, the running game lost Mark Ingram, WR Julio Jones is gone and the most talented defensive player, Marcel Dareus, will be showing his wares in the NFL this fall (IF). All of these are serious losses, but nothing will hurt the Tide as much as replacing Quarterback Greg McElroy.

Coaches, fans and players have assumed that McCarron will take over as the Tide’s starting quarterback, but it’s not certain yet. Plugging in A.J. makes sense from a seniority pecking order, but what have we seen so far that makes us believe he gets a pass without competing in earnest for the job?

You might remember McCarron after the verbal beating he received from Nick Saban during the Georgia State game, and the 0-4 final drive in the Iron Bowl.

Four players are competing for the starting position. While there is no doubt who the favorite is, regardless who wins it will be a major change from what Alabama has gone into battle with under Saban. Both John Parker Wilson and Greg McElroy were seasoned upperclassmen with poise and experience.

While there are four different guys competing, none of them are upperclassmen. Thus in addition to winning the job, the QB immediately needs to assume a leadership role. Particularly given the vacuum left by Ingram AND Jones

For most positions, Alabama is capable of a simple plug-and-play, but not quarterback. The competition will be serious - and critical - all spring. (While we're at it, watch who develops as the leader of the offense. If not Richardson, will the Tide have to count on an underclassman QB who's never started a game?)


Barrett Sallee: On what needs to happen for Alabama’s D to return to its 2008/2009 form

Does Terrence Cody have any eligibility left? That would certainly help.

Even with Marcell Dareus (now pronounced “DAR-e-us”) in the lineup last season, the Alabama defensive front was a major let down. The Crimson Tide finished sixth in the SEC in sacks, and next-to-last in the conference in tackles for loss.

A good pass rush will cause all kinds of problems for a quarterback. A defense that can generate pressure will force turnovers, which will inturn build the confidence of an Alabama secondary that seemed lost at times in 2010. This is the Saban Way. For DB’s, confidence is gold, and often times that starts up front.

Thus a key name to keep an eye on this spring is nose tackle Jesse Williams. The 6-foot-4, 330-pound junior college transfer from Arizona Western College underwent off-season knee surgery, but is practicing this spring. He has the size and ability to earn the attention of multiple blockers, which will allow Bama’s defensive ends and linebackers more room to fly around the football. (Think Mt. Cody. Well, perhaps that’s premature. Maybe “Large-Hill Williams”?)

If he can fill the void Cody left behind two years ago, the Crimson Tide defense will be scary good. If he can’t, there isn’t a reliable Plan B, and the Tide defense could be in trouble.


Gabe Harris: On which position will reveal itself as the deepest

Alabama might be the deepest college football team heading into spring ball, but it's the offensive line that's going to set the tone. A veteran O-line with a lot of starts together goes a long way (see Auburn circa 2010).

William Vlachos returns at center along with guards Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack, not to mention big offensive tackle D.J. Fluker. James Carpenter is the lone loss among the starters, and the candidate to keep an eye on here is 6-foot-7, 275-pound junior Aaron Douglas. If that name rings a bell it should - Douglas transferred from Arizona Western College after being a freshman All-American at Tennessee.

Behind these five there’s little drop-off. The Kouandijo brothers and Tyler Love headline the list of highly recruited players that will push the starters and contend for playing time themselves. Look for Alabama to get back to the mauling, run-first team it is meant to be.


Russ Mitchell: On what player needs to step up and shine this spring or risk a failure label

There aren’t that many to pick from, which says as much about Saban’s liberal use of medical scholarships - or running players off completely - as it says about brilliant evaluating.

Our runner up for this choice is wide receiver Brandon Gibson, who was a national top ten prep receiver coming out of Mobile, Alabama in the 2007 class. It appears Gibson will play bridesmaid to fellow senior Darius Hanks, for whom the expectations were considerably lower when he arrived at Capstone.

Many are waiting to see how Hanks handles the pressure of “replacing” Julio Jones. Perhaps there’s still time for Gibson.

But the man who needs to shine this spring more than any other is OT Tyler Love. Arriving in Tuscaloosa as a five star, can’t-miss prospect, Love has yet to start a single game for the Tide. The senior was already behind Alfred McCullough on the depth chart, and now JC transfer Aaron Douglas is likely to jump both.

As spring opens in Tuscaloosa, Love is being tried out at center behind Vlachos. Yes, center. Everyone is saying the right things, regardless of whether or not they’re true. But Love needs a spring for the ages or he’ll likely be considered a disappointment given his prep expectations.


Please follow Russ Mitchell on Twitter @russmitchellsec, Brian Harbach @harbabd and Barrett Sallee @barrettsallee.


SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On VU’s Spring
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On UF’s Spring
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On USC’s Spring
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On Hogs’ Spring
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On LSU’s Spring
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On UGA’s Spring
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On MSU’s Spring



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