TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The game of football can move real fast for a first-year starting quarterback.
Whoa, did AJ McCarron learn that a year ago. His facial expression when asked about it said that much. Still, he made it out the other side with a national championship ring after things slowed down.
Now entering his first spring as the solid No. 1, the rising junior from Mobile can look back at the growing process of Year 1.
"I thought they were cheating," he said. "I didn't think they were playing with 11. I thought there were 22 out there."
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Things came together in late October and played his best game (24-of-34 passing for 234 yards) in the Crimson Tide's 21-0 pounding of LSU in the national championship game.
Before coming back for spring practice, which restarted with its second of 15 dates Monday, the quarterback took care of his arm. McCarron confirmed having off-season shoulder surgery after the afternoon workout in Tuscaloosa.
"I mean it was just a minor thing," he said. "It wasn't anything big."
Cosmetically, things appeared different entering this spring for the Alabama offense. Former coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jim McElwain is now leading the Colorado State program and new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier took his place.
McCarron said very little has changed in the offense so far.
He's even picked up a new buddy in the deal after having a close relationship with McElwain in their three years together.
"We talk to each other on the weekends," McCarron said. "If he gets bored, he likes to call me. I found that out, and we'll just talk. He's definitely a good guy and I'm excited to be playing for him."
Saban also said the Alabama offense will remain the Alabama offense.
"Are we wholesale changing our offense and going to a whole new system, a whole new terminology?" Saban said. "Everybody in the building's got to learn a whole new system because one guy's changed? We're not doing that. on offense you have to continue to try to make sure you're doing the things that your players can do and that you have the right kind of players to do those things. That determines it to some degree."
The player Saban has at quarterback said he hasn't allowed the success of a national championship get to his head.
His family won't allow that. Daily chores are still part of the routine when he's back in Mobile.
"Nothing is too bad," he said. "Most of the time it's just, which I volunteer for, I watch out for my three little brothers or two since the other one is here now."
That would be Corey McCarron, big brother speaks of. The younger McCarron, a tight end, transferred to Alabama after playing last season at South Alabama.
AJ McCarron said it's still strange seeing his younger brother on the same practice field, but "definitely special," having him in Tuscaloosa now.
Besides having a family tie involved, McCarron said he's enjoys being an "old head" in the Alabama offense entering his fourth season with the program. He didn't shy away from the vocal side of the leadership role that comes with being the starting quarterback.
The approach can't change, he said, even after beating Phillip Sims for the top job last year.
"I didn't worry about what other people were doing last year," he said. "I'm not worried about what other people are doing this year. Like coach always says, if you play to the best of your ability, then you don't have to worry about anything."
McCarron also wasn't stressing too much over the plan of attack when he entered the Superdome on Jan. 9. His career-night and offensive MVP performance was the product of the season-long growth spurt and an air-tight game plan.
"Honestly, I knew it was going to work a week before," he said. "I felt really confident going into the game. I felt like I played that way the last time we played them, other than that one mistake. I knew I wasn't going to be able to miss any reads this game. So I just took it upon myself and coach gave me the opportunity and my receivers went up and made some plays for me."