Alabama Football: Proof That A.J. McCarron Is a Heisman-Caliber Quarterback

Jimmy McMurreyAnalyst IIMay 16, 2012

Alabama Football: Proof That A.J. McCarron Is a Heisman-Caliber Quarterback

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    Critics and a select few fans alike cling to the idea that Raymond Anthony McCarron, Jr. never was and never will be a Heisman-caliber quarterback. Today, I intend to bust that myth with tangible evidence. 

    Let me be clear, first. This is not an argument about why McCarron will win the Heisman Trophy, but rather an argument about why McCarron will be worthy of Heisman consideration in 2012. The argument is based on his 2011 performances and his potential in 2012.

    His performances on the field, his legitimate routing of Phillip Sims to become the clear starter for the Tide, and his national championship ring speaks for itself, but I will take it one step further. 

    I've read time and again that he's not nearly as good as many quarterbacks around the nation, like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were in 2011, and some claim that he's not even the best quarterback in the SEC. 

    Bollocks to that, I say!

    I could understand criticism of McCarron before the 2011 season, as back then, even Alabama fans watched him with trepidation. 

    But no longer. 

    McCarron is a national champion quarterback at the University of Alabama, and he is worthy of Heisman consideration.

    Here is irrefutable evidence as to why McCarron has as good a chance as anyone to win the Heisman Trophy in 2012. 

His Rookie Stats Meet or Exceed That of His Peers

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    So many folks are keen on the idea that McCarron isn't all that great when they compare him to many different college quarterbacks.

    But they compare McCarron's rookie-year accomplishments to a career's worth of accomplishments by others. 

    Here, I will compare McCarron's rookie stats as a redshirt sophomore with no meaningful game time experience prior to 2011 to that of other popular college quarterback's rookie seasons, past and present. A summary of each player is below the following table. 

    All of the following quarterbacks have either won the Heisman Trophy or been considered by varying sources to be possible Heisman candidates. 

    All stats are from ESPN.com with each players ESPN stats linked.

    College Rookie Stats (First Year Starting):

    Player Comp. Att. Perct. Yards Avg. Yds. TD INT Rating Nat. Champ Ring
    Matt Barkley  211  352  59.9  2,735 7.8  15  14  131.3  No
    Sam Bradford  237  341  69.5  3,121 9.2  36  8  176.5  No
    Robert Griffin III  160  267  59.9  2,091 7.8  15  3  142.0  No
    Landry Jones  261  449  58.1   3,198 7.1  26  14  130.8  No
    Andrew Luck  162  288  56.3  2,575  8.9  13  4  143.5  No
    Ryan Mallett*  225  403  55.8  3,627  9  30  7  152.5  No 
    Aaron Murray  209  342  61.1  3,049  8.9  24  8  154.5  No
    Matt Stafford  135  256  52.7  1,749  6.8  7  13  109.0  No
    Brandon Weeden  342  511  66.9  4,277  8.4  34  13  154.1  No
    Tyler Wilson  277  438  63.2  3,638  8.3  24  6  148.4  No
    A.J. McCarron  219  328  66.8  2,634  8.0  16  5  147.3  Yes

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Matt Barkley: Considered as top quarterback going into 2012 season and a future NFL draft first overall pick. He's currently the college football media's golden boy, and he has earned that recognition.

    Sam Bradford: First overall pick in 2010 NFL draft, Heisman Trophy winner, 2010 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Led his team to the 2009 (2008 season) BCS National Championship Game where he and his team lost to Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators (the same team that beat Alabama in the 2008 SEC Championship Game). 

    Robert Griffin III: Second overall pick in 2012 NFL draft, Heisman Trophy winner. Confirmed starting quarterback for Washington Redskins in 2012. 

    Landry Jones: Considered one of the best quarterbacks in nation, likely future first-round NFL draft pick. Successor to Sam Bradford at Oklahoma. 

    Andrew Luck: First overall pick in 2012 NFL draft. Two time Heisman finalist. Widely thought to have been first overall pick in 2011 NFL draft had he declared early. Considered best NFL quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning.

    *Ryan Mallett: Consensus first-round NFL draft talent (fell to third round due to "character issues"), considered best quarterback in the SEC while at Arkansas. Rookie year was at Michigan; stats listed from first year starting at Arkansas, where he transferred.

    Aaron Murray: Considered as one of the two best quarterbacks currently in the SEC. Had A.J. Green as his primary target in 2010, who was the consensus best receiver in college football as well as the 2011 NFL draft. 

    Matt Stafford: First overall pick in 2009 NFL draft, as predicted by many prior to his 2008 season. Played for Georgia coach Mark Richt during his best years. 

    Brandon Weeden: Entered college football at 24 years of age. First-round pick in 2012 NFL draft, quarterback for back-to-back Biletnikoff-winning wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who was drafted fifth overall in the 2012 NFL draft. Expected to replace Colt McCoy (two-time Heisman finalist, second-winningest quarterback in NCAA history behind Boise State's Kellen Moore) as starting quarterback for Cleveland Browns. 

    Tyler Wilson: Considered as one of the two best quarterbacks currently in the SEC. Had what was considered by many as the best overall wide receiver corps in the nation in 2011, his first year starting. Redshirt Junior (fourth year at Arkansas) in 2011.

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    The only quarterback on the list that had clearly superior stats to McCarron was Sam Bradford. Everyone else was fully comparable. 

He Did Better Than Anyone Else Against LSU Last Year

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    McCarron did something that every other quarterback in the nation feared: He played against LSU not once, but twice, and fared well. 

    True, the Tide lost the first game, but they won the second match on the biggest stage, and McCarron was named the Offensive MVP of the 2012 BCS National Championship Game. 

    There's only one thing I can say about those accolades: In the immortal words of Howard Dean, "Byah!" (YouTube). 

    Here are the stats of the notable quarterbacks (the ones that looked the least foolish) that faced LSU in 2011 in chronological order.

    All stats are from ESPN.com with each players ESPN stats linked. 

    Player Team Comp. Att. Perct. Yards TD INT Rating Outcome
    Darron Thomas Oregon 31 54 57.4 240 1 1 97.1 Loss
    Geno Smith W. Virginia 38 65 58.5 463 2 2 122.3 Loss
    Clint Moseley Auburn 12 20 60.0 145 0 1 110.9 Loss
    A.J. McCarron Alabama 16 28 57.1 199 0 1 109.7 Loss 9-6
    Tyler Wilson Arkansas 14 22 63.6 207 1 1 148.6 Loss 41-17
    Aaron Murray Georgia 16 40 40.0 163 1 2 72.5 *Loss 42-10
    A.J. McCarron  Alabama 23 34 67.6  234 0  125.5  Win 21-0

     

     

     

     

     

     

    *2011 SEC Championship Game

    Among these notable quarterbacks that faced LSU in the 2011 regular season, McCarron fared about as well as any of them. In other words, he sucked.

    But there's more to it than that. McCarron isn't a cold-faced, poker-playing quarterback. He's emotional, just like Mark Ingram was (YouTube). But, he doesn't cry. He's actually more like Tim Tebow (YouTube), except he can throw the ball, and he doesn't cry. Sorry to make the comparison, Alabama fans, but no one can deny Tebow's (nor McCarron's) intensity. 

    McCarron is an emotional quarterback. He lets his heart play the game more than his throwing arm.

    He wants to get into it, and halfway through the 2011 season, Nick Saban wanted McCarron to "settle the f@#$ down."

    I've said it before, but Saban can get it wrong sometimes. The last thing you want is for McCarron to settle the flip down. 

    Saban learned from that mistake. 

    Saban cut him loose in Game 2 (the national championship game in New Orleans). 

    Saban let A.J. McCarron be A.J. McCarron. When Saban pulled the trigger, all McCarron did was throw for 234 yards and earn MVP honors of the national title game against the second best defense in all of college football (Alabama's defense was better than LSU's). 

McCarron Has the Heart of a Champion

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    OK, so this isn't "tangible" proof, but none can deny it. A.J. McCarron has the heart of a champion.

    Anyone who says he doesn't have the heart of a champion must not know that he's a college football national championship quarterback. 

    He will do whatever it takes to win, but he won't do something completely foolish. He knows when to pass the ball, throw the ball away and run and slide, as well as when to lower his shoulder and punch through. 

    I will go on record and say that Alabama has not seen a quarterback like McCarron since the days that Joe Namath was Bear Bryant's favorite player.

    If you aren't a believer yet, just wait. 

    Some may call it a man-crush, but I call it being realistic. 

"But McCarron Had Trent Richardson!"

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    This is a lame argument, and I've heard far too many times. 

    McCarron had a Heisman quality running back. 

    So what?

    Trent Richardson mostly ran the ball, sometimes caught the ball and sometimes picked up blitzes. 

    Any Alabama fan who watched the games knows that when Richardson was going to run the ball the other team knew it, as evidenced by the sheer amount of tackles he had to break to become a Heisman finalist. 

    Richardson's stats were not garnered by trickery but by brute strength and willpower alone. It was never a secret that the ball was going to Richardson, even against the likes of Kent State. 

    Brett Favre had Adrian Peterson, the consensus best running back in the NFL (and future Hall of Famer to boot) in 2010, and where did that get him?

    Having a great running back helps a quarterback, but it doesn't make or break him. 

    The point is that having a great running back certainly helps a quarterback, but it only takes a defense a split second to realize that the quarterback will be throwing the ball. 

    After that split second is up, it falls upon McCarron to make a play. And make a play he did many times in 2011. 

McCarron Is Clutch

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    Third-and-8. Backed into his own territory. A situation that could turn the tide in favor of the opponent. 

    A.J. McCarron, who had not faced a play with so much weight in his entire career, made a clutch play. A play so clutch that he confused everybody, including the officials. 

    A perfect back shoulder throw to Marquis Maze, a hair's width from being out of bounds, and bam!

    First down. 

    I'll let the video do the talking. 

McCarron Will Have a Real Receiver Corps in 2012

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    A.J. McCarron and Alabama did not have a solid, well-rounded, quality receiver corps in 2011. 

    Don't get me wrong, I loved Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks (among others) and all they did for Alabama, but they just weren't top-notch receivers. I'm just being realistic here. 

    Other than Julio Jones, Alabama has not had one true threat at receiver since Nick Saban arrived (D.J. Hall's success is debatable, but he was a head case that didn't live up to his potential). 

    Things will be different in 2012. 

    McCarron will not only have a go-to receiver (though it is uncertain as to who it will be), but he will have an army of top-notch ball-catchers all over the field. 

    Christion Jones, Kenny Bell, Kevin Norwood, DeAndrew White, Marvin Shinn, Chris Black and Amari Cooper will be his receivers of choice.

    As for his tight ends, he has veterans and promising prospects waiting to haul in a catch. The most notable are third-year starter Michael Williams and new faces Harrison Jones (brother of Crimson Tide MVP Barrett Jones), Malcolm Faciane, Brian Vogler and...one other guy.

    Brent Calloway. Remember him? He wanted to play running back for Auburn, but then re-committed to Alabama to play linebacker. Now, he's a tight end. And he looks to be a damn good one at that.

    Are those the only players McCarron can throw to? Nope!

    His running backs can do so much more than jump head first into the line of scrimmage. Eddie Lacy is a capable receiver, as is new running back T.J. Yeldon—the MVP of Alabama's 2012 A-Day game.

    McCarron will also have one of the best hybrid running back/wide receivers in the nation in Demetrius Hart. It's a bold claim, as he's yet to play one down of football in a real game, but my predictions will become reality in 2012. Mark my words. 

    McCarron struggled to find an open receiver in 2011. A few times, he overlooked the open man, but more often than not, there just wasn't anybody open, and McCarron had to make something happen with precise throws.

    That will change in 2012 when he has numerous receivers making defensive coordinators' heads spin.  

A.J. McCarron Has His Own T-Shirt

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    This is a shirt featuring A.J. McCarron's chest in detail, with his tattoo included. 

    If that doesn't say "Heisman" all over it, I don't know what does.

    Will McCarron win the Heisman? That's anybody's guess, and most will say, "No."

    Will McCarron be a Heisman finalist? That depends on how much hype Eddie Lacy gets, but like the Magic 8 Ball says, "It is a distinct possibility."

    Will McCarron be considered a Heisman candidate by the end of the 2012 regular season?

    Hell yea he will. 

    Did I mention he's a great field goal holder?