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Spring Wrap: Quarterback

If UA played today: 10 A.J. McCarron (Jr.).

Say hello to Phillip Ely, A.J. McCarron's new backup.

The big question

What we asked in March: “How will new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier impact the position? While it will be interesting to see how Nussmeier goes about putting his thumbprint on the offense, much of his day-to-day interaction with the players will be reserved for the quarterbacks. Renown for his work at the position, Nussmeier walks into a situation that returns a starter who is coming of an offensive MVP performance in the BCS championship game and a backup talented enough to start at a more than a few SEC schools..” – Spring Sneak Peek: Quarterback, February 15, 2012.

What we think now: Phillip Sims' decision to transfer will likely lead to more quality time spent between Nussmeier and Phillip Ely. They didn't seem like much at the time, but those extra 15 practices Ely took part in as an early enrollee a year ago could be the difference in the redshirt freshman being a capable No. 2 in 2012. The fact that Ely picked up extra reps in Sims' place during 2012 spring drills shouldn't hurt either.

Time to make a move

What we asked in March: “A year ago, a fairly large faction of the UA fan base was of the opinion that Sims would beat out McCarron for the right to replace Greg McElroy. One national title and 13 McCarron starts later, talk of a quarterback competition has evaporated. That doesn't mean, however, that the time between now and fall camp won't be important for Sims. With Nussmeier coming on board, each of the three scholarship quarterbacks will be looking to make a strong first impression during spring drills.”

What we think now: While Sims attributed his decision to leave UA to a family matter, let's be honest: the starting quarterback at the nation's top program doesn't leave for reasons other than football. And that's why one year after their competition, McCarron -- the starter -- remains in Tuscaloosa and Sims -- the backup -- is headed elsewhere.

That's not to say that Sims isn't dealing with legitimate issues away from the game. Just that if he were in McCarron's spot, the outcome would have likely been different.

Best of the bunch

What we thought in February: “More so than how he threw the football in the rematch with LSU, McCarron showed the kind of poise and confidence a quarterback needs to stand tall and deliver against one of college football's best defenses. Armed with the experiences of last season, the junior is being mentioned among early Heisman candidates for thje 2012 season.”

What we think now: McCarron showed on A-Day that he's more than comfortable making all the throws, even with his top four receivers from a season ago no longer a part of the offense. Not sure if it's possible at the quarterback position, but If there's a concern it may be that the junior becomes too confident in his ability. Of course, that's a worry any offensive coordinator would love to have.

An increase in explosive plays looks to be on the way. It will be interesting to see, however, if they come at the expense of a few more turnovers. Keep in mind, thought, that the approach in the fall will be somewhat different than it was on A-Day.

Don't be shocked if

The pick in February; “With the return of McCarron and Sims and the anticipated arrival of Alec Morris, Ely heads into his second spring flying under the radar. A midyear enrollee a year ago, Ely took some lumps during initial runs through spring and fall camp. With a full year in the program under his belt, a guy who looked overmatched physically in 2011 should be able to hold his own in 2012.”

What we think now: While Ely looks to have made physical strides in his first year in the program, there's no downplaying the gap that now exists between starter and backup. The good news is that if McCarron were taken out of the equation, there is enough talent around the quarterback position that the Crimson Tide would still be favored in 10 -- perhaps 11, with Arkansas being the question mark -- of the 12 games on UA's schedule.

With Michigan replacing Kent State as Alabama's season-opening opponent, the opportunity to get Ely game reps in week one may not present itself. But that shouldn't be a problem the following week when Western Kentucky visits Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Probability of a true freshman contributing at quarterback in 2012: Low.

Spring grade: A-

Also see:
Spring Wrap: Offensive line
Spring Wrap: Tight end

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