Saban is one snap away from turning to Phillip Ely to lead his offense this season.
The redshirt freshman is now in line to take over for Sims as A.J. McCarron’s backup for the 2012 season.
While the redshirt freshman has not thrown a pass in a college game, he has had the benefit of participating in the last two spring practices (Ely was an early enrollee in 2011) against the Crimson Tide’s uber-talented defensive unit.
Ely completed 10-of-18 passes for 83 yards without a touchdown or an interception in Alabama’s A-Day game.
Considering that he backed up current Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray at Plant High School in Tampa, an argument could be made that he is well-prepared for the challenge of being handed the keys to a championship-caliber team should McCarron miss any game action.
The former U.S. Army All-American threw for more than 4,500 yards and 46 touchdowns during his last two prep seasons—leading his team to a state title in his junior season and a title game appearance in his final season in the high school ranks.
With the sobering reality that Ely is now one snap away from his number being called, his development will be one of the critical areas for Nick Saban and his staff to monitor when fall camp rolls around in August.
When asked recently by reporters about Ely’s progress during a booster tour stop in Atlanta, Saban briefly expanded on what he thought of his play in the spring.
“Improved a lot," Saban said when he was in Atlanta, according to Don Kausler, Jr. of al.com. "It's critical for us that he continues to develop. It's going to be critical for us that the freshman that we recruited, when he gets there, he develops as well.”
The good news for Crimson Tide fans is that Saban will have ample time to come up with a plan for the 6’1”, 198-pounder should he be pressed into duty.
With potentially the best offensive line in the country in charge of protecting their signal-callers, they are more equipped than most to help Ely succeed in a situation that would doom most national title contenders.