Well, it’s been a while since we’ve posted anything but with spring practice beginning on March 16 it’s time to get cranked up for 2013!
We’ll begin the season with an in-depth position by position look at the 2013 team. Sure, there are other position group breakdowns but we’ll go a lot deeper here than most and we’ll make predictions as we go along. First up, we’ll look at the ridiculously deep QB position where Elite 11 QBs come to walk-on. Spoiler alert – AJ McCarron will be the 2013 starter at QB! And, with that we’re off and running with 2013!
2013 Alabama Quarterbacks
After suffering thru perhaps the shallowest QB depth chart in years, the 2013 Alabama Crimson Tide will feature the most decorated QB in Crimson Tide history, an experienced QB who brings an entirely different dimension to the position with the deadly read option, four other scholarship signal callers who are all vying to be the #2 man and a walk on Elite 11 QB who may be the best QB of anyone not named AJ McCarron! Yes, the QB position has become yet another position featuring an embarrassment of riches for the nation’s deepest and most successful collegiate team. Let’s take an in-depth look at the quarterback position as we prepare for spring drills. This blog will spend a good deal of time focusing on the backups as it’s pretty evident what Alabama has in AJ McCarron.
AJ McCarron – 6’4, 210 Senior
He sports three national championship rings on one hand and a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model on the other. He’s not thought of in the same breath as Namath, Stabler and Starr yet it’s McCarron who is the only Alabama QB to lead the Tide to two national championships. Last season, along with leading the Tide to another national championship, AJ led the entire nation in passing efficiency. Not Landry Jones. Not Matt Barkley. Not Geno Smith nor Tyler Wilson. AJ McCarron was the best QB in the country according to the passing efficiency metrics. Why? Well, his TD numbers grew from 16 in 2011 to 30 in 2012 and his completion percentage was 67%. Oh, and he only threw three interceptions in 314 attemps. For his career, McCarron has now thrown 49 touchdown passes to only 8 interceptions – a ridiculous showing of maturity and accuracy by any measure. With all of this success, what should we expect as a double encore from #10?
The buzz coming out of the winter is that OC Doug Nussmeier has earned the trust of Nick Saban to such a degree that you may see the Tide lean on the passing game of their senior QB in 2013. While this doesn’t mean that you’ll see a five wide no huddle attack, it does mean that Nussmeier and McCarron will have the latitude to exploit the nightmare matchups that Amari Cooper, Kenny Bell, Chris Black, and OJ Howard will impose on unsuspecting defenses. If Bama can find a way to cobble together an offensive line that can provide some time to throw, this could be a record breaking season for everyone involved in the passing game. While we’ve heard this song and dance every year since John Parker Wilson’s second year as the Tide QB, I truly believe this season Bama will take to the air to travel to Padadena. Wouldn’t you if you had AJ McCarron?
As a quick note, it’s been revealed that AJ played the last six games of the season with a rib injury yet he never missed a start. His toughness and leadership have been just as impressive to me as his passing efficiency. However, AJ’s ability to make the right reads nearly every time he drops back, his ability to throw the deep ball as well as frozen ropes to the sidelines and his uncanny accuracy are all traits that put him head and shoulders above the rest.
Blake Sims – 6’0, 212 Junior
What a revelation Blake Sims was last season. The word on the street has always been that Sims can be an exciting playmaker with the ball in his hands and the staff supposedly was ready to feature his skills from the Wildcat position in 2011. Well, a funny thing happened in 2011 – the Tide seemingly disbanded the Wildcat formation from the playbook and all the talk about Sims vanished with it.
However, in 2012 (as predicted by our crack staff at the Lighthouse) Blake Sims was given numerous opportunities to take snaps as the backup QB and he never failed to show off his abilities in the open field. The staff decided they would feature Sims’ funning ability in the open field out of the shotgun and the read option suddenly became a devastating change up to Alabama’s pro style offense. While Sims will never be accused of being an adept passer, his 6.2 yards per carry average was certainly disruptive enough to opposing defenses when he entered the game.
While Sims will likely come in from time to time in 2013 for mop up duty to run the read option, the guess here is that the Bama staff will begin to focus on Alec Morris as the heir apparent to AJ McCarron. Sims simply can’t throw the football with any accuracy so he eliminates more than half the playbook from the offense. With playmakers at the WR and TE position, rest assured the Tide coaching staff will look for the kid who can sling it with his arm instead of the one who can bring it with his feet. I think 2012 will be the pinnacle of Sims’ career as a QB as kids like Morris, Bateman, McLeod and Del Rio will likley literally be passing him up on the depth chart.
Alec Morris – 6’3, 225 Redshirt Freshman
This big, strapping Texan is the prototypical looking QB for the pro style Bama offense. His high school pedigree shows that Morris is a true Texas gunslinger and the grapevine says the Tide staff is really excited about what this kid can do under center. As a high school senior at Allen High School, Morris passed for 3,242 yards and 35 touchdowns while throwing only six interceptions. Sound familiar? Oh, and he also rushed for 330 yards and 9 touchdowns so he’s certainly more than a statue back there in the pocket.
This spring, look for Morris to be given every opportunity possible to make the leap from redshirting clipboard holder to second string QB. The staff loves his size, arm strength and better than you’d expect athleticism, all of which far surpass that of Phillip Ely. And, as we said above, Saban & Co would prefer their #2 QB to be able to run the entire playbook rather than just a few plays. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the former 3 star QB as you watch him progress in the spring and into the fall and the prediction here is that Alec Morris would be your true #2 QB if AJ were to suffer an injury.
Cooper Bateman – 6’3, 200 True Freshman
Bateman was ranked as the #5 pro style QB by 247 Sports and Rivals rated him as a 4 star signal caller. Bateman participated in a prestigious 7 on 7 tournament and let his team to a championship victory over more highly touted QBs like Max Browne, Christian Hackenburg and Brice Ramsey. Next, Bateman participated in the even more prestigious Elite 11 QB camp led by Trent Dilfer. Each year, the Elite 11 camp invites 25 of the top rising high school senior quarterbacks and the camp staff puts these kids thru the ringer to determine the top 11 rising senior high school quarterbacks in the nation. While Bateman showed good arm strength during this camp, his accuracy and ability to make decisive reads ranked below the average of the rest of the campers and Bateman ended up on the outside looking in at the top 11 quarterbacks of the nation. Bateman’s high school team fared even worse on the heels of his showing at the Elite 11 camp as they went 3-8, struggling under their new coach. Bateman himself struggled, completing 53% of his passes with 15 TDs and 7 picks. However, our last look at Cooper Bateman came during the Under Armour All American game where he bounced back very nicely, leading his team to two touchdowns and looking like one of the top QBs at the event.
There is a ton to like about Bateman so it’s no wonder he’s ranked so highly in the various recruiting services. His size, arm and surprising footspeed are all well above average. With the skill set to succeed, the thing Bateman will really have to work on is his accuracy, reads and comfort taking snaps from center. In other words, physically Bateman is perhaps the best QB on the roster but he’s a long way from being trusted as the #2 QB on the roster. Bateman is an early enrollee so his maturation process will start this spring. I can’t wait to watch and hear how he does in spring but we definitely expect him to redshirt this season.
Parker McLeod – 6’3, 190 True Freshman
Like Bateman, McLeod is enrolled in classes and will be participating in 2013 spring drills. Unlike Bateman, there isn’t a lot known about McLeod as he was injured for most of his 2012 high school campaign and his offense was a run first, pass only when you have to type of offense. The Tide staff offered McLeod after seeing him throw in at least two of their camps so they obviously liked what they saw. But, of the freshman it would appear that McLeod has the longest way to go before he’ll be ready to take snaps on Saturdays. He’ll certainly redshirt this year.
Luke Del Rio – 6’2, 200 True Freshman
I’m going to be honest with you guys – I love this kid. I mean, what’s not to like???? First, Del Rio’s name may look familiar to you since he is the son of former NFL head coach Jack Del Rio. So, the kid has a coach’s pedigree and upbringing. Second, Del Rio spurned multiple Division I offers including Oklahoma State and Oregon State in order to WALK ON at Alabama. That’s right, he’s not even on scholarship and he knew about Bateman’s presence as a Tide signee yet Del Rio never batted an eye and signed with Alabama anyway. Other fun facts that make you cheer for this kid: He led his high school team to a 5A state championship after transferring there for his senior year. Oh, and remember that Elite 11 camp we discussed when evaluating Cooper Bateman? Well, Del Rio finished 5th in that competition and made a strong case to be the #1 kid at the camp. Perhaps that is why he wasn’t scared off by Bateman’s Bama commitment, after all Del Rio had already bested him once, right?
Del Rio doesn’t possess the height that I usually like to see in a QB and he could stand to bulk up a smidge, as well. However, what he does possess is a very calm, very confident demeanor and a competitive streak that is exactly what you want from your team leader. During the Elite 11 competition, Del Rio flashed a strong and accurate arm and was able to absorb the Elite 11 playbook and make it translate on the field. Admittedly, at one time the Lighthouse was a huge fan of Phillip Sims so perhaps you should take this with a grain of salt but we absolutely love Luke Del Rio. He’ll certainly redshirt this season and then look for him to begin his ascent up the depth chart next year. FYI – in his senior HS season, Del Rio completed 70% of his passes, throwing 28 TDs and only 4 picks. Sound familiar?
(Here’s a nice link about Del Rio’s time at the Elite 11: http://ridewithsilver.com/luke-del-rio-brings-father-jack-to-tears-at-espns-elite-11-high-school-qb-competition-by-ian-massey )
Phillip Ely – 6’1, 198 Redshirt Sophomore
The Lighthouse predicted that Ely would get passed up on the depth chart by Blake Sims in 2012 and that’s exactly what happened. Ely is a better passer than Sims but, honestly, Blake doesn’t exactly set a very high bar in passing skills. Ely understands the playbook and he has the trust of the staff in that regard but his lack of size and lack of arm strength has Ely looking up at the rest of the pack. A month ago, there were strong rumors about Ely transferring to South Florida and while that didn’t come to fruition, I would not be surprised at all to see him transfer somewhere after spring drills. The simple fact is that last year Ely was beaten out by Sims and by all accounts Morris has passed him up now, as well. When you sprinkle in two Elite 11 freshman QBs who will each participate in spring drills, Helen Keller could read the writing on the wall as it pertains to Ely.
Seriously, the depth at the QB position is just silly and I’m still blown away by the fact that a kid who was in the top five of the Elite 11 decided to walk on at Alabama. There is strength in numbers so while AJ readies himself to make an assault on every Alabama QB record in the books, it’s encouraging to see so much depth behind him. While Blake Sims offers up a tremendous change up to the downhill pro style Bama fastball, the true future of the offense is in the hands of Morris, Bateman, Del Rio and McLeod. By all accounts, Morris is the heir apparent to McCarron but I look for Bateman and Del Rio to make this one helluva competition in the future.