Fair or not, A.J. McCarron was largely viewed as a "game manager" last season during Alabama's national title run.
All of that changed on Jan. 9, 2012, when McCarron lit up LSU's secondary in the BCS National Championship Game, completing 23 of his 34 passes for 234 yards en route to Offensive MVP honors.
When McCarron first enrolled at Alabama from St. Paul's Episcopal in Mobile, Ala., he had the reputation of a gunslinger with a ton of confidence in his ability to make plays—even ones that weren't there.
McCarron still has that big arm at his disposal, but that's not what makes him an elite quarterback.
It's everything else he does.
McCarron trusts his running backs and his offensive line. In the SEC, the path of least resistance—especially when you have the best offensive line in the country—is to run the ball and play defense.
Every quarterback has confidence in his own ability, and McCarron is no different. But it takes an elite quarterback to dial down that confidence for the good of the team.
McCarron also uses that to his advantage.
He's also a smart quarterback.
We saw that in the national championship game, as he made some NFL-caliber throws on a very good LSU secondary, including several deep outs and back-shoulder throws down the sideline.
He may not get the Heisman hype that statistical freaks like Barkley get, and he may not play in a system that lends itself for a Heisman run.
But make no mistake, McCarron is an elite quarterback who deserves the hype of some of the other signal-callers in the country.