University of Alabama

Alabama football: Crimson Tide backup quarterbacks try to make up for lack of experience

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — For all the buzz surrounding the Alabama passing game, one glaring weakness faces the back end of its quarterback depth chart:


Besides returning starter Greg McElroy, none of the other quarterbacks has any.

The transfer of Star Jackson after spring practice left the Crimson Tide with two former top recruits backing up Greg McElroy. But neither A.J. McCarron nor Phillip Sims has taken a snap in an official college football game.

Redshirt freshman McCarron was bumped up to No. 2 behind McElroy late last season but never was called upon. His lack of college experience isn’t bothering the confident passer from Mobile.

“I think our coaching staff does a great job of getting our backup QBs ready,” McCarron said. “That’s what we practice for. If you can do it in practice, you can do it in the game. The crowd is the only difference, really. You’ve still got people coming after you, wanting to take your head off.”

Behind him is true freshman Sims, who enrolled in January to get that extra practice time.

And that it as far as scholarship quarterbacks go. Morgan Ogilvie, son of former Crimson Tide running back Major Ogilvie, is the only other quarterback participating in individual drills. Jacksonville State transfer Thomas Darrah provided depth along with Jackson — Georgia State’s new starter — last season, but it soon became clear neither would play meaningful minutes in Tuscaloosa, barring a string of major injuries.

So it’s up to fifth-year senior McElroy and the young guns who arrived on campus with acclaim.

McCarron got more of a chance to show his stuff in April’s A-Day when he led the White team to victory on the final play of the afternoon. His 39-yard pass hit receiver Brandon Gibson in the end zone to cap off an up-and-down 12-for-28 afternoon that included a team-high 196 yards.

The weight room saw plenty of McCarron in the past year. Since enrolling in the 180-pound range, he is up closer to 205 entering his redshirt-freshman year.

Sometimes, head coach Nick Saban said, McCarron’s aggressive style needs a degree of restraint.

“I think that sometimes A.J. needs to be very disciplined in what he’s supposed to do,” Saban said. “I think sometimes guys with arm talent, they think they can get it in there no matter what. Those are the kinds of things you have to learn and grow through so that you can play winning football at your position.

“What is more important: Playing winning football at your position or making a great play? Which is more important? If you’re taking a big risk trying to make a great play and it doesn’t work out, too many of those make you not a successful guy at your position.”

Penciled into the third spot on the still mythical depth chart, Sims came to Alabama as one of the top two or three high school quarterbacks in the nation, depending on which recruiting service is consulted.

He was the fourth quarterback to play on A-Day and completed 1-of-7 passes with a few drops sprinkled in.

The experience issues with those behind McElroy isn’t a major concern at this point, offensive coordinator Jim McElwain said.

“I know sitting in that meeting room every day that I sit in there with those guys, it is very comforting to know that I feel we have a lot of talent at that position,” said McElwain, who also coaches the quarterbacks. “It’s great for those two guys to have Greg (McElroy) in that room because he is the consummate guy that studies everything that we do. They’re learning how to be a successful quarterback from a guy that’s won a few games in his career. From a preparation standpoint, I feel very comfortable with both of those guys and where we’re heading at the quarterback position.”