Nick Saban has continuously preached the philosophy that unless you are a first-round talent, you continue to play college football. When it comes to A.J. McCarron, these sentiments ring true.
After being in Tuscaloosa and witnessing Saturday's upset first hand, one thing was crystal clear: McCarron is not ready for the NFL.
In no way, shape or form is this a knock on the young man. By most standards, McCarron has had a terrific season and should by no means shoulder the blame for the Tide's 29-24 loss at the hands of “Johnny Football” and Texas A&M on Saturday.
McCarron posted a very respectable 309 yards passing, going 21-of-34 with a touchdown. There were, however, some critical moments when he did not deliver a good ball. The interception aside, there were two significant plays when McCarron underthrew his receiver, which could have led to an easy six points each time.
With 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Tide on their own 18-yard line, McCarron hit Amari Cooper for a 50-yard connection, yet Cooper had to wait for the ball. On the ensuing play, T.J. Yeldon fumbled the ball and knocked the life out of the building.
McCarron delivered a similar 54-yard dish to Kenny Bell on the Tide's final drive, placing them on the A&M six-yard line. Again, though, his receiver had to slow down. .
If he hits his receivers in stride, the game may have ended differently.
Certainly, McCarron's 54-yard pitch to Cooper for a touchdown on the drive before was a great play. The tools are there, but the delivery has been less than consistent.
No, Yeldon should not fumble in that situation, and it is still hard to stomach having 1st-and-goal on the Aggies’ six-yard line and not getting in the end zone. That should never happen.
But the story of McCarron's last two games has been one of inconsistency. While his heroic final drive against LSU will be one for the ages, it was not his best overall performance. And last Saturday in his home barn, he didn’t have it. He didn't make the plays he needed to get it done.
So there may be a silver lining coming from Saturday. It should be evidence enough that Alabama will have McCarron back next year for his third stint as a starter. To think that McCarron is ready to take on an NFL defense next season is foolish, and one would hope those around him will advise him to stay put.
McCarron could be an NFL quarterback in the not-so-distant future, but it won't be next season. He still has things to work on at the NCAA level before taking his shot at the big time.
So heading into the fall of 2013, The Tide should still have one of their major leaders on offense and, with an improved defense, could easily be back in the familiar situation of competing for a National Championship.
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