TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Over the course of 13 games and four months, AJ McCarron went from climbing a depth chart to climbing a podium to lift up the BCS Championship game trophy.
Of the Crimson Tide starters, McCarron was one of the few without experience heading into the 2011 season. By the time all was said and done, though, he gained experienced and a reputation as a leader beyond his underclassman status.
McCarron threw 16 touchdowns to just five interceptions, a 67 percent completion percentage and more than 2,600 yards. Not bad for a first-year starter.
Now, the real test comes. In 2012, how will McCarron evolve at quarterback and who will back him up?
McCarron is, without a shadow of a doubt, the Tide’s starting quarterback. Now that we’ve got that little bit of groundwork out of the way, let’s get into the real meat of the quarterback situation: Who will be McCarron’s backup?
If healthy, it will be Phillip Sims. The sophomore played in eight games last year and looked competent under center. He completed 64 percent of his passes but threw two interceptions and no touchdowns. Given his experience, it’s Sims’ job to lose. But health may be an issue.
Sims hasn’t thrown in more than a week after suffering what coach Nick Saban called bursitis of the throwing shoulder. While there’s no structural damage, the lingering effect could drag out. If he does miss the remainder of spring, he should bounce back by the fall, but it’s definitely something worth paying attention to.
The time is now for Phillip Ely. The redshirt freshman from Tampa, Fla., has an opportunity to make some noise with Sims unable to throw. It’s safe to say Ely will get plenty of snaps during Friday’s scrimmage and, possibly, A-Day on April 14. The former U.S. Army All-American has a quick release and the arm to make all the throws in Alabama’s offense.
Keep an eye on Alec Morris when the fall rolls around. The Tide’s lone quarterback in the 2012 class has a sneaky strong arm and the size you want from a pro-style quarterback at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds. He also is familiar with high-level competition, coming from the heat of Texas high school football.