11 November 2009
First of all, let's get this out of the way up front - Greg McElroy is the starting quarterback. There's no danger of that changing, barring something extremely horrible happening.
Having said that, there looks to be a possible shakeup behind him on the depth chart.
Rumors started surfacing on the internet last week that true freshman A.J. McCarron had moved up on the depth chart, to possibly as high as the #2 spot. Lots of folks shrugged that off, since McCarron is still in line for a redshirt.
During the warm ups for Saturday's game against LSU it was very obvious that McCarron was taking more snaps than he normally got. When the team came back out from the locker room just prior to kickoff, things took on another different look.
Star Jackson headed to the sidelines and put on a headset. McCarron stood just off of the sidelines, alongside Greg McElroy, and continued to warm up.
Now word has come down today from Coach Saban that McCarron is no longer working with the scout team:
He's one of the three quarterbacks that takes reps every week to get ready and prepare for the game.
So would the coaching staff really consider burning his redshirt this late in the season?
Darius Hanks got his first action this late in the season in 2007, so there is a precedent for Coach Saban playing a guy when he feels that the player has earned it. But the quarterback position is a bit different than the wide receiver position.
There has been a theory amongst many folks who really pay attention to things at practice that McCarron has been on the brink of making a move for a while. The theory among those folks has always been that while Star Jackson would come in for mop-up duty, or for a possession or two in a game that was already comfortably in hand, if Greg McElroy suffered a serious injury... McCarron would be the guy to take over the starting role.
It's not certain that this theory has ever been correct, but the fact that McCarron is no longer working with the scout team does lend some credence to it.
The real question at this point revolves around Bama's game next weekend... with all due respect to the folks from Chattanooga, I think everyone has that game circled as one where we'll see a lot of guys get playing time.
Will we see A.J. McCarron in that game? Or will the coaching staff maintain his redshirt?
One interesting factor in that discussion is a guy who isn't on campus yet. Bama has a commitment from quarterback Phillip Sims of Chesapeake, VA, and most recruiting analysts have Sims listed among the top two quarterbacks in the nation this season. Add to that the fact that Sims is expected to graduate high school in December, and be here for spring practice.
If McCarron does redshirt, he and Sims would then both be freshmen in 2010. While Sims would still be eligible for a redshirt, coaches do, at times, attempt to avoid having two highly thought of quarterbacks be that close together from an eligibility standpoint. Projecting a few years down the road, you would prefer to have them be two years apart.
I don't for a second think that the coaching staff would burn the redshirt on McCarron because of the potential of a guy who isn't on campus yet, who wouldn't project to be the starter until 2011 at the earliest.
One interesting thing to keep in mind, though... McCarron could play in 2009, and then redshirt in 2010. McElroy will still, presumably, be the starting quarterback. Star Jackson will be a sophomore, Thomas Darrah will be a sophomore, and Phillip Sims will be a true freshman. So, if they wanted to make certain that McCarron had another year, he could simply take his redshirt next season - similar to how B.J. Scott is taking a redshirt during his second year.
All of this talk could simply be internet speculation, though. It could very well play out that Jackson plays in mop up duty during the Chattanooga game, and McCarron simply takes the redshirt that it looks like he's on track to take.
But when anything changes at the quarterback position, it causes my ears to perk up.
Regardless of how it plays out on the field in games, it appears as though McCarron is developing very nicely, and that brings a lot of hope and potential for the quarterback position in the future.
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