TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — With a little more than a week remaining until Alabama begins spring practice, coach Nick Saban addressed the media for the first time since national signing day, touching on topics that include position changes, the possible starting quarterback and the fourth-quarter conditioning program.
“Players have worked hard,” Saban said. “... Strength and conditioning, you develop a capacity for it. It’s like blowing up a balloon. The first time you blow it up, it’s really hard. The next time you blow it up, it’s easy to get it back to where the balloon was, and it gets harder to get to the next level, but I think you’re always increasing that capacity with your team and the players.”
The biggest topic of the day, however, centered around the quarterback position, namely who will fill the void left by three-year starter John Parker Wilson. Redshirt junior Greg McElroy and redshirt freshman Star Jackson are the two likely candidates to replace Wilson, while walk-on sophomore Thomas Darrah and incoming freshman A.J. McCarron also are in the mix.
In backup duty the past two years, McElroy is 16-of-20 for 196 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The touchdown pass came in last year’s Iron Bowl, a 34-yard pass to Marquis Maze.
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“I don’t have a timetable,” Saban said. “I know you guys (in the media) are always looking for results, and who’s starting where and when you’re going to name a starter. That doesn’t mean anything to me. It’s helping every player play to his capacity, being the best they can be and then who has the best opportunity to help our team be successful in what they do. I don’t think you can put a timetable on how long it takes for that to happen.”
During his tenure at Alabama, Wilson did not miss a start and set school records for touchdown passes, passing yards, pass attempts and completions. McElroy has appeared in six games, but none of Alabama’s four possible quarterbacks has one college start.
“Nobody has thrown the ball or done anything to this point, so we don’t have any evaluations,” Saban said. “We are pleased with the progress that those guys have made. We’re just going to have to let things happen during the course of spring practice, and I think it will be critical for those guys in terms of their improvement and gaining the confidence of the other players on the team.”
Saban spoke of potential position changes, the key word being potential because he said none has been finalized.
Sophomore outside linebacker Jerrell Harris “probably” will move to inside linebacker, while sophomore Chris Jackson will move back to wide receiver. Freshman linebacker Michael Williams will move to tight end, a spot he occupied during Sugar Bowl practice.
“(Harris) made nice progress last year as an outside backer and really became a pretty good player the last three or four weeks of the season,” Saban said. “But we’d still like to be developing another guy at that position.”
Saban also spoke about the move of B.J. Scott from receiver to safety.
“We’ll try B.J. Scott a little bit at safety first,” Saban said, “We want to see what his capacity is to learn and adjust. Maybe we’ll look at him at corner at some point in time too.”
He also touched on the rumor of junior tailback Terry Grant possibly transferring to North Alabama.
“(Grant is) still here,” Saban said. “He’s done a great job in the offseason program. We’d like to find a role for him. He’s done a really good job in everything he’s done and we’re hopeful that he’ll have a great spring.”