Everyone has heard the old saying “Offense win games, but defense wins championships.” Though this is true to a certain extent, you need offense to put points on the scoreboard so that your defense in return can hold up the opposing team. The most valuable possession to have offensively is an experienced quarterback. An experienced signal caller is like having a second coach on the field. A well-polished college quarterback provides his team with three things: the ability to read the defense, rally the team around him because of his experience and the aspect of being an efficient passer.
For the Alabama Crimson Tide, many fans pinned the leadership role on linebacker CJ Mosley. Let’s be honest, Mosley is a phenomenal player, leader and is arguably one of the best linebackers to ever don a crimson and white uniform for the Tide. Though Mosley will truly be missed on the defensive side of the ball, the main person that Alabama will miss comes from the offensive side, AJ McCarron.
Whether people finally choose to give him the credit or not, there is no question as to if McCarron was a capable leader for Alabama. In three seasons as the starting quarterback, McCarron was nothing short of efficient and sensational. From trying to find his place on the team as a leader in 2009, to rising to the occasion and becoming the leader in 2012, McCarron has had his highs and lows yet he continued to keep himself and the team composed.
Statistically, McCarron will go down in history as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever come through the Capstone. ESPN has a show called “The Numbers Don’t Lie” and for McCarron, the stats that he has accumulated over three seasons prove that not only is he one of the best in Crimson Tide history, but he should be looked at more as a productive NFL Draft pick.
In his first season as the starting quarterback (2011), McCarron was trying to learn three things: Alabama’s offensive system, his teammates and coach Saban. Despite the opinions of many analysts who said that the Tide’s 14th national title was a tribute to the defense, McCarron proved that he could take on the quarterback position and be successful in year one. He finished the season completing 66.8 percent of his passes for 2,634 yards, 16 touchdowns and five interceptions (147.3 quarterback rating).
With Alabama losing a lot of defensive talent to the NFL in 2012, McCarron stepped deeper into his role as the leader of the offense and team as a whole. Two things stood out for McCarron in his second year starting, statistics and comeback performances. With the emergence of Amari Cooper and Kevin Norwood as receivers, McCarron had a Heisman-like season in 2012. Alabama averaged 38.5 points per game in 2012 and McCarron completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 2,933 yards, 30 touchdowns and three interceptions (175.3 quarterback rating).
Every aspiring quarterback has dreamed of winning the Heisman. From tossing the pigskin in the backyard with pops to putting on your uniform and walking out of the tunnel for a collegiate game, every college quarterback has envisioned having that one moment that could get them to the coveted bronze trophy. One of McCarron’s Heisman moments came in 2012. In November, Alabama took on LSU in a night game inside of hostile Tiger Stadium “Death Valley” Baton Rouge, La.
The Crimson Tide was trailing 17-14 late in the fourth quarter with 1:34 remaining in regulation. With the ball backed up on its own 20-yard line, Alabama turned to McCarron to lead them to victory. On a possession known as “The Drive” for Crimson Tide fans, McCarron gathered the team around him and engineered a 5-play, 80-yard drive down the field. The drive was beautifully capped off with a 28-yard game winning touchdown pass on a screen play from McCarron to TJ Yeldon. Alabama won the game 21-17 and went on secure its 15th national title.
This season, McCarron was thrust even more into the leadership role because his receivers came out of the gate slow to start the season. With Cooper battling a toe injury, Kenny Bell having personal issues and receivers dropping passes, McCarron had to make sure that everyone stayed focused on the task at hand. After losing bitterly to Texas A&M and reigning Heisman winner Johnny Manziel at home last season, McCarron got the better of Manziel this season at College Station.
In a shootout for the ages at Kyle Field, McCarron showed the world why he’s not the average quarterback. He completed 69 percent of his passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns. Alabama defeated Texas A&M 49-42. Against LSU this season, McCarron out performed Zach Mettenberger. He completed 70 percent of his passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns. Even in the bitter loss to Auburn, McCarron was heroic in his performance and left everything he had on the field. He passed for 277 yards and three touchdowns.
McCarron has finished the regular season of his senior year with amazing numbers. He completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 2,676 yards, 26 touchdowns and five interceptions (165.9 quarterback rating). For his career, McCarron was the definition of efficient at Alabama.
He leaves with a record of 36-3 as a starter with 8,632 passing yards, 75 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He has achieved two national titles and a Southeastern Conference title as the starting quarterback. He is the recipient of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award for this season. McCarron is a finalist for many other awards and has finally been voted as one of the finalist to go to New York City for the Heisman presentation.
The question Alabama fans are left asking is who will be the next guy under center? For Alabama, seven players will compete for the starting job next season. Just like the NFL and NBA playoffs, summer camp and spring ball will be Saban’s way of weeding out the contenders from the pretenders.
Of the seven quarterbacks, Blake Sims has the most experience. This season, Sims completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns. Despite Sims being a gifted athlete running the ball, he has yet to show Saban that he can pass the ball well consistently. He struggles a bit with reading coverage schemes and handling blitzes. If Saban and Doug Nussmeier can work more with Sims in the offseason, he may have the opportunity to win the starting job.
The guy that many Alabama fans and the coaching staff is high on to be the guy under center next season is Alec Morris. As a native of Allen, Texas, Morris is 6-foot-3, 230 pounds. He has the build of a college quarterback along with a strong arm. In the 2012 Spring Game (A-Day Game), Morris showed Saban and company that he can drive the ball downfield.
At Allen High School in Texas, Morris was a superstar. He passed for 8,310 yards and 57 touchdowns in his high school tenure. Though he was listed as a three-star prospect out of high school, Morris is gifted in the pro-style offense. He will have to continue to study the playbook, but to many Tide fans Morris is the next one in line.
For Luke Del Rio and Cooper Bateman, they are also in the heat of the conversation for starting quarterback. Bateman was regarded as one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in the 2013 class. He was a four-star prospect and was ranked in the top five by ESPN and 247 sports in the aspect of being a pocket passer and a pro-style quarterback. As a native of Murray, Utah, Bateman was sensational as the quarterback at Cottonwood High School. He passed for 7, 654 yards and 68 touchdowns.
Del Rio is the son of NFL coach Jack Del Rio, so fans know that he has game. As an Elite 11 finalist he turned down scholarships to join Alabama. He led Valor Christian High School (Colorado) to a 5A State Championship. He passed for 4,855 yards and 48 touchdowns in his career at Valor Christian.
Last but not least, you have Parker McLeod, David Cornwell and Jacob Coker. McLeod is a native of Marietta, Ga. He passed for 2,160 yards and 22 touchdowns in his career in Walton High School. Despite his knee injury, Cornwell is looked at by many fans to be a first-round draft pick in the NFL and an incredible quarterback for Alabama. If Jacob Coker is able to transfer successfully from Florida State to Alabama, he will have to see will he be able to play right away or will he sit out a year.
Seven worthy candidates will compete to be McCarron’s successor. The question is which player wants the job more?