Alabama Football: Replacing AJ McCarron Will Be Critical for 2014 Season

Marc TorrenceAlabama Lead WriterDecember 13, 2013

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 30:  AJ McCarron #10 celebrates throwing a 99 yard touchdown reception to Amari Cooper #9 of the Alabama Crimson Tide in the fourth quarter against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.—Alabama fans will soon have to face an unfortunate reality.

After arguably the greatest three-year run for a quarterback in college football history, AJ McCarron will end his career at Alabama in the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma. McCarron’s run with the Crimson Tide will be one to remember, but the show must go on in Tuscaloosa.

Amazingly, McCarron is the only quarterback to start for Nick Saban at Alabama that Saban recruited. That speaks not only to McCarron’s ability and longevity, but to the stability that Saban has enjoyed.

The quarterback position under Saban at Alabama is more about what you don’t do than what you do. In a system that features a strong running game and an elite defense, Alabama quarterbacks don’t have to be a hero every game for the Tide to succeed.

This unfairly brings the label of “game manager” to whomever is entrusted by Saban with the game’s most critical position. Greg McElroy was the epitome of the term, with McCarron shaking that label his last two seasons as he became comfortable in the offense and the Tide recruited a stable of playmakers around him.

John Parker Wilson probably least fit the mold of a Saban quarterback, being not as careful with the ball as the other two. But he was also the one whom Saban had the least influence over, already a junior when Saban arrived.

Alabama quarterbacks under Saban
NameYears as StarterCompletionsAttemptsYardsTouchdownsInterceptions
John Parker Wilson2007-084427855,1192820
Greg McElroy2009-104366585,6912910
AJ McCarron2011-136679968,6327513

And so, Saban will enter the offseason with a question mark at quarterback for just the third time in his seven-year tenure at Alabama.

It’s not like that has been a bad thing, though. The last two seasons Saban has started a new quarterback were ultimately national title years.

As Alabama looks to return to the top of the college football mountain next season, he certainly has a bevy of talent at his disposal, like he does at every other position.

TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 19:  Blake Sims #6 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates their 52-0 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks with AJ McCarron #10 at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 19, 2013 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Currently on the roster is junior Blake Sims, a dual-threat quarterback who has seen the majority of snaps in mop-up duty this year.

The strong-armed Alec Morris was believed to be the incumbent to McCarron in the offseason. The redshirt sophomore, though, hasn’t been able to grab hold of the second-string spot.

A trio of freshman have been waiting in the wings. Alabama signed Cooper Bateman and Parker McLeod to scholarships in the 2013 class. And Luke Del Rio, the son of Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, turned down offers from Oklahoma State, Oregon State, UCLA and others, according to 247Sports, to come to Alabama as a preferred walk-on.

The Crimson Tide also have a commitment from David Cornwell, a 4-star prospect, according to 247Sports.

I’m not going to speculate on who currently has the upper hand right now, because there’s just no way to know.

Based purely off of playing time, Sims would appear to be the favorite. But it is unclear if Saban would start someone who lacks elite throwing ability but makes up for it with his legs.

"It doesn't happen by seniority," Saban said on National Signing Day in February about the impending quarterback battle. "You probably look at it like, 'Well, this guy's been here the longest, so he gets the most chances.' If he's been here the longest, he's already had the most chances. If he hasn't taken advantage of those opportunities, then somebody else has a turn at getting those chances.

“I think that's how we'll manage the position a little bit so that we see if some of these young guys can sort of develop the way we'd like them to.”