Alabama notes: Bowl game about now, not next season

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerDecember 28, 2010 

ORLANDO, Fla. -- It’s the age-old question that follows any coach to a bowl game.

How much of the game is a reward to the seniors and how much is it an opportunity for the next wave of stars to dip their toes in the water?

For Nick Saban, Saturday’s Capital One Bowl game against No. 7 Michigan State will be like any other this season.

On the topic of quarterback play, it is fifth-year senior Greg McElroy’s day and backup AJ McCarron’s playing time won’t be any different than it would be in the 12 previous games this fall.

“I don’t think it’s fair to Greg to not allow him to play and do what he does,” Saban said. “AJ is in the position that he’s in. If he gets an opportunity to play, it’ll be great. But we’re not going to penalize Greg in his last game here for great job that he’s done the last two years here as the starter so that we can try to play somebody else for the future.”

McCarron, a redshirt freshman is expected to duel with freshman Phillip Sims for the starting job next season. Sims’ redshirt is still intact for this season after enrolling in January and participating in spring and fall practices.

Familiar looks

The intertwining coaching careers of the Alabama and Michigan State staffs have been well documented to this point -- at least the real obvious connections.

One that hasn’t received much play will affect the dynamics in the battle for control up front.

Tide offensive line coach Joe Pendry worked alongside Spartan defensive line coach Ted Gill with the Carolina Panthers in 1996-97.

“Joe’s a good technician,” Gill told reporters Monday. “He has those guys playing real hard. I’m really pleased, as I look at them I see some similarities of when we worked together. He continues to really build on making those guys better every game.”

Alabama assistants are not permitted to speak to reporters so Pendry was not available for comment.

All quiet so far

A year ago, Alabama players were slammed by fans and autograph collectors before the BCS National Championship Game in California.

That’s not the case through three days in Orlando this season.

“I really haven’t run into one fan looking for my autograph or anything,” safety Robert Lester said Monday. “I’m sure the closer we get to the game, more of that will come.”

A very Saban Christmas

Though there was some travel involved this year, Saban said he was able to enjoy some quality time away from football this Christmas.

And no, the native of West Virginia’s coal country did not receive any hunks of fossil fuel in his stocking.

“I got my two to three pairs of socks,” Saban said. “No, actually, everybody else gets a lot of stuff. But it really is better to give than to get. It would have been hard to convince me of that as a kid because I loved Christmas and it was always great, but we have a lot of family traditions and I’m just happy to have our kids home and some of their friends and girlfriends and everybody together. It’s good to have a little bit of that time too.”

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