University of Alabama

Bama's offense ready for tough task

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — How does Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy perform under pressure? Is his offensive line formidable enough to protect him?

Can Julio Jones’ fellow receivers consistently make plays?

Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban has found a pretty good way to seek answers to those questions: Let McElroy & Co. face the team’s own dominant defense in today’s spring game at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“I think it’ll be helpful to the quarterback, I think it’ll be challenging to the offensive line and I think it will be good for the development of our team to find out where we are,” Saban said.

In terms of experience, it’s a mismatch among the first-teamers. The Tide defense has nine starters back and Saban said it could be even better than last season’s group.

Offensively, McElroy is leading the pack at quarterback and Alabama is trying to replace three offensive line starters and tight ends Travis McCall and Nick Walker.

It raises enough storylines for how next season’s team will shape up to once again bring plenty of fans into the stadium, particularly following a 12-2 season. The Tide’s two spring games under Saban have drawn a combined 170,000 fans.

This one will be televised nationally on ESPN.

Saban said McElroy would be one of the team’s bigger surprises of the spring to some people. McElroy has been competing with redshirt freshman Star Jackson and sophomore walk-on Thomas Darrah and doesn’t think he’s earned much yet.

“I don’t know what I’ve proven,” he said. “I know I haven’t played on a Saturday yet, I know I haven’t started a game yet, I know I haven’t really done anything up to this point that’s proven myself.”

Saban said McElroy, who was John Parker Wilson’s backup last season, has been by far the team’s most consistent quarterback throughout the spring.

Meanwhile, offensive linemen like center William Vlachos and newcomers James Carpenter and Chance Warmack have been competing for starting jobs.

“Obviously we have a lot of holes to fill,” McElroy said. “We have a lot of very capable players competing for those holes. As far as competition is concerned, it’s been pretty intense.”

Defensive end Lorenzo Washington praised the new guys Carpenter and Warmack, who he said “is going to be an incredible player.”

Saban and McElroy, meanwhile, both said the receiving corps is the most improved unit on the offense. The Tide has been seeking more playmakers behind Jones, who was by far the leading receiver last season.

“Hopefully that will be something that continues to evolve and show up in production on the field in games,” Saban said.

Former Central-Phenix City standout Earl Alexander (shoulder) is out for the spring game.

The running back competition might be on hold until fall camp. Mark Ingram (hamstring) and Roy Upchurch (neck) are both sitting out A-Day, leaving Terry Grant as the lone experienced back.

Alabama has also added another event two hours before kickoff. Former players, including ex-receiver Tyrone Prothro, are scheduled to participate in a 7-on-7 flag football game in the stadium.