Milliner expects to start right away; Sims may have to wait awhile
By Michael Casagrande
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Both know the life of a high school superstar and the expectations that accompany fame.
Now Phillip Sims and DeMarcus Milliner are in Tuscaloosa — where their trajectories meet and split. Both are among the 11 newcomers who are already enrolled in school, but the weeks and months that follow will bring much different paths for the two blue chippers.
Sims, considered one of the top two quarterbacks in the nation, has time. He has the benefit of learning the new system at a slower pace with a returning starter in Greg McElroy and two backups already in the program.
Milliner, on the other hand, is already hearing talk of competition for a starting job.
As the top cornerback in the country, it’s natural to assume he’ll be in the running for one of the two starting jobs vacated by the departed Javier Arenas and Kareem Jackson.
To get there, Milliner is studying the defensive playbook — a manual that was thicker than his right hand could illustrate.
“That’s part of the reason I came early was to try to learn the playbook and get the plays down so when I get on the field, I know what I am doing,” he said.
Just a month separates Milliner and the rest of the Crimson Tide from the beginning of spring practice starting March 12.
By August, Milliner hopes to be at “the very top” of the depth chart.
“If not, I’m just going to work until I get there,” he said. “Hopefully, I’m there already.”
The competition for playing time at cornerback will include more newcomers than veterans. Beyond starters Arenas and Jackson, top backups Marquis Johnson and Chris Rogers also graduated. The returning corners, both third on last season’s depth chart include rising junior B.J. Scott and former top recruit Dre Kirkpatrick.
For Sims, there’s a host of ex-top prospects waiting in line behind starting quarterback Greg McElroy.
There’s redshirt freshman AJ McCarron in the No. 2 role and Star Jackson returning as the backup’s backup.
All that means Sims doesn’t need to digest the entire playbook nearly as quickly as Milliner.
“Just to be learning the offense and how they do things,” Sims listed as his plans before summer practices.
“It’s a lot to learn. Any 17-year-old will tell you, you’re not going to learn it overnight.”