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Notebook: Tale of the QB tape

TUSCALOOSA _ If University of Alabama coach Nick Saban sticks to his statement that Saturday would be sort of an audition for the starting quarterback job, then sophomore A.J. McCarron may have taken an important step in landing the lead role.

Sophomore A.J. McCarron was on the field for five Alabama scores Saturday against Kent State.

McCarron completed 14 of 23 passes for 226 yards and one touchdown, while redshirt freshman Phillip Sims was 7-for-14 for 73 yards in his first game with the Crimson Tide.

McCarron seemed to have better pass coverage while Sims was sacked twice, and both had two passes intercepted.

“I think that sometimes there are good interceptions and sometimes there are bad interceptions,” Saban said after the 48-7 victory against Kent State. “A couple of those were bad interceptions because we didn’t throw the ball to the right place, some of them weren’t so bad interceptions because they’re balls that could have been caught that got tipped that the other team ends up intercepting.

“One we should have been throwing the ball hot off the edge, knew that, just didn’t trust it and do it, got hit when we threw it. Those are things that we learn from, and when you play with young players at quarterback, there’s a lot of things that can happen.”

Alabama essentially stuck with its plan to have both play three series, and then alternate as the game warranted. After the first go-around, McCarron was 7-for-9, 112 yards, one touchdown pass, and Sims was 3-for-7, 33 yards. Alabama scored twice early on with McCarron at quarterback, and once with Sims.

“Right now we feel confident no matter which quarterback is in there,” junior offensive lineman Barrett Jones said. “We’ve been practicing a lot with those quarterbacks, and I don’t think we miss a beat when we change quarterbacks. We run the same system with both.”

Starters and injuries

Sophomore cornerback Dee Milliner missed two series and went into the locker room near the end of the first quarter. He returned and played with his right hand and thumb taped as if he may have had a cut.

Eddie Lacy shook off an injury Saturday.

Sophomore running back Eddie Lacy took a helmet to the back near the end of the first half and went to the locker room early. He returned for the second half, and appeared to have a cut over his eye that had been stitched up.

True freshmen Vinnie Sunseri and Trey DePriest were the first freshmen to play on the opening kickoff. Sunseri was subsequently credited with the first tackle of the season, while DePriest ended up leading the team with 10. Also on the unit was senior Alex Watkins, who had knee surgery in the spring.

Alabama’s defense came out in a nickel formation, with C.J. Mosley on the field instead of Nico Johnson at middle linebacker. The offense came out in a two-tight end formation with Brad Smelley and Michael Williams.

Defensive numbers

The 90 yards of offense allowed were the second fewest by a Nick Saban-coached at Alabama.

Yards Opponent, Date
84 Chattanooga Nov. 21, 2009
90 Kent State Sept. 3, 2011
155 Virginia Tech Sept. 5, 2009
158 Western Kentucky Sept. 13, 2008
165 Georgia State Nov. 18, 2010

It also continued a trend of strong defensive play in season openers:
Aug. 30, 2008: vs. Clemson, 188 total yards, no offensive TDs, 34-10 victory.
Sept. 5, 2009: vs. Virginia Tech, 155 total yards, 34-24 victory.
Sept. 4, 2010: vs. San Jose State, 175 total yards, 48-3 victory.
Sept. 3, 2011: vs. Kent State, 90 total yards, 48-7 victory.

Keeping up with Jones

Yes, junior offensive lineman Barrett Jones was nearly everywhere Saturday.

Jones started the game at left tackle, moved to left guard, took some snaps at center and then went back to left tackle. It promoted Saban to joke that he was disappointed they didn’t get him time at right tackle.

With backup center Kellen Williams out, the coaching staff decided to get him some work at center and briefly inserted him for senior William Vlachos.

“We told him the series before that you’re going to center, then they (Kent State) muffed the punt, punter muffs the ball and we get the ball on the one-yard line so, I grab Vlachos when Barrett was already out there to be the center and I said, ‘If he fumbles this snap, if we don’t get the snap here, it’s your fault, cause you’re supposed to run out there and say, I’m playing center, the coach is not supposed to change the center on the one-yard line,’ Saban joked. “So, Barrett saved him- and Vlachos was actually a little scared.”

Jones’ response: “Thanks there for the vote of confidence, coach.”


Kent State, which had four players help out for a weekend in Tuscaloosa after the April 27th tornado, avoided the more-normal jeering by fans. “We noticed it when we ran out and while warming up,” quarterback Spencer Keith said of the cheers. “Like coach said, it was really classy.”

Emergency responders were honored before kickoff, and a moment of silence held for those in the state affected by the April 27 tornado. Alabama also recognized the family of late offensive lineman Aaron Douglas, with his parents at midfield. The team is wearing both a sticker of a houndstooth ribbon for the tornado victims, and Douglas No. 77 on their helmets this season. Also honored during the game was the 1961 national championship team, which recently celebrated its 50-year anniversary, and Marty Lyons for being elected into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Alabama is 93-21-3 (.815) all-time in season openers, and won 10 straight.

Team captains were Mark Barron, Jones, Brandon Gibson and Dont’a Hightower.

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