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February 28, 2011
2011 Spring Preview: QBs
Moving On: In Greg McElroy, Alabama waves goodbye to a national championship quarterback for the first time since Jay Barker. The two-year starter will be missed for a lot of reasons, not the least of which will be that over 27 career starts, he threw only nine interceptions in 638 pass attempts. That's just one every three games, a ratio his successor would be thrilled to call his own.
Moving up: The A.J. McCarron/Phillip Sims competition will be the most anticipated position battle of UA's spring drills. McCarron has been on campus one year longer than Sims, and completed 30 of 48 passes in a reserve role last season. However, only four of those attempts - a desperation four-and-out drive at the end of the loss to Auburn, with McElroy out with a concussion - came under true pressure. Both candidates were heavily recruited, particularly Sims, who was regarded as the nation's top quarterback recruit in class of 2010. Sims drew consistent praise from UA coach Nick Saban during the season for his practice performance.
Ultimately, with a running game that is expected to be strong enough to take pressure off a first-year starting quarterback, the candidate who proves to make fewer mistakes may have the edge.
Moving day: Signee Phillip Ely graduated from Tampa Plant High early and enrolled at the Capstone in January. As one of only three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, the youngster will presumably have every opportunity to be UA's No.3 option at the position this fall. Spring practice will give him an opportunity to learn the offense at a more comfortable pace than a freshman quarterback entering school in the fall could get.
Position overview: Don't look for Saban to declare a winner of this battle in the spring; UA's 2011 starter may not emerge until fall camp or beyond. As deceiving as scrimmage statistics can be for a variety of reasons, the numbers McCarron and Sims post in scrimmage work will be a water-cooler topic unto themselves - particularly on A-Day, when their skills will be open for public viewing. Whoever takes the baton from McElroy faces three especially tough road trips for a first-year quarterback - at Penn State, at Florida and at Auburn.