Alabama Football: A Vote for AJ McCarron for the Starting QB Job

Brett HudsonContributor IIISeptember 12, 2011

McCarron walking away from the victory in Happy Valley.
McCarron walking away from the victory in Happy Valley.Rob Carr/Getty Images

Between April and August, most young people, and really most people in general, are trying to find a way to get away from the grind. To go on a vacation and only focus on enjoying themselves. Not AJ McCarron.

What he did do, we may never know. But what we do know, whatever it was, it won him the starting QB job for the 2011 Alabama Crimson Tide.

As I was sitting in the press box of Bryant-Denny Stadium during the 2011 A-Day game this past April, I was floored by Phillip Sims.

He looked very at ease in the pocket and showed mobility outside of it when necessary. My quick diagnosis was that McCarron had an advantage going into the A-Day game, but Sims wiped it away in one day.

It was any man's job.

The two parted ways and went home for the summer, Sims to Chesapeake, Virginia, and McCarron to Mobile, Alabama. The two came back in August for preseason camp and, more importantly, to duke it out day-in-and-day-out for the starting QB job.

It was like a heavyweight championship fight: trading jab after jab after jab.

This battle was neck-and-neck all fall, to the point where the biggest deciding factor for head coach Nick Saban would be how well they each played in front of the game-day crowd, the 100,000+ screaming fans, supportive or hostile.

Sims, a promising prospect, likely won't start for the Tide this year.
Sims, a promising prospect, likely won't start for the Tide this year.Greg McWilliams/Getty Images

It was on game day that McCarron won this job.

Rewinding to the Kent State game, the first three series of that game saw a very calm, collected McCarron take control of his offense. The running game wasn't there for him, but in every pre-snap adjustment, McCarron did it all without breaking a sweat.

The three series that followed it, with Sims at the helm, were quite the opposite. I saw tentativeness and hesitation. He wasn't as commanding as McCarron was, not as confident.

Some of his throws looked as if he was so scared of throwing an interception that he didn't even give his receiver a chance to make the catch just to be sure there was no INT. At other times, Sims just made bad decisions, as he did on both of his interceptions.

And then we move to State College, Pennsylvania, to Happy Valley, to the Whiteout, to The House That Paterno Built and Linebacker U.

From the second McCarron stepped onto the field until Saban subbed Sims in with less than 90 seconds left in the game, McCarron was in complete control. He never looked flustered or even the least bit worried.

In the second quarter, at a point in the game where every possession mattered and a touchdown would put the Tide on the roll it needed to gain the advantage, McCarron looked as if he was taking just another practice snap.

On a crucial 3rd and 3, McCarron floated a beautiful ball to a jumping Kevin Norwood, who came down with it at the Penn State 3-yard-line, setting up a 1st and goal for Alabama.

The very next play, McCarron gave the ball to Trent Richardson. Touchdown, Alabama.

Thanks to McCarron's leadership and poise down the field, Alabama took a 17-3 lead and never looked back.

Sure, Saban hasn't named a set starter, and my guess is he won't until at least the Arkansas game.

But, I know this: If the 2009 Iron Bowl happens again this year and you have one drive that can win or lose the ball game, the Bama fanbase is going to want McCarron on the field over Sims, simply because of his demeanor and poise in pressure situations.


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