Reports surfaced yesterday that Alabama running back Eddie Lacy and offensive tackle D.J. Fluker will announce that they will forgo their senior seasons following the BCS National Championship Game and enter the 2013 NFL draft.
While we'll have to wait a month to find out who's actually going, Alabama announced Wednesday night that one key piece of the 2012 SEC champions will be returning to Tuscaloosa in 2013.
Quarterback AJ McCarron will come back to the Crimson Tide for his senior season, according to a release from the university.
It's a good move for McCarron.
That's not to say he isn't ready. Despite the doubters, he is.
Bleacher Report's senior NFL draft lead writer Matt Miller projected McCarron as a third-round pick in November.
But center Barrett Jones and guard Chance Warmack will both exhaust their eligibility following the BCS National Championship Game. If Lacy and Fluker do, in fact, declare early, McCarron may have more of a chance to shine in 2013.
McCarron is unfairly labeled as a "game manager" due in large part to the system in which he plays, but he can sling it all over the field. To his credit he doesn't, which is a big reason why Alabama is playing for its second consecutive BCS title this season.
He makes smart decisions with the football and takes his shots at the appropriate time. That's what good quarterbacks should do.
McCarron finished the 2012 season with 2,669 yards, 26 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 173.07 passer rating—the top mark in the country.
Sure he's struggled at times, but that doesn't mean that he's a game manager; it just means that he's a young quarterback.
Head coach Nick Saban showed so much faith in McCarron that he put the game in his hands against the stingy LSU defense in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game following the 2011 season, and he responded by earning offensive MVP honors.
But barring injury, he's probably not going to drop from his current draft projection no matter what he does in 2013. When all else fails, he can always put on his game-manager hat.
That makes sticking around a low-risk proposition.
McCarron has the talent to be a big-time quarterback, and another season in what could be a slightly more pass-happy offense—at least, by Alabama standards—will only help his draft stock.