January 7, 2012
McCarron 'can get it done' for Alabama
By Rob Longley, QMI Agency
If you are the starting quarterback at Alabama, you walk into an impressive lineage of fame and personality.
There was Joe Namath, setting the early stages of his celebrated lifestyle while at Tuscaloosa from 1962 to 1964.
There was the understated Bart Starr, who rolled with Tide in the 1950s before he went on to fame with the Green Bay Packers where he was the MVP of the first two Super Bowls.
And right after Namath, it was Ken (the Snake) Stabler, another player whose personality complemented his play.
Which brings us to a young man named AJ McCarron, who will be behind centre for Alabama on Monday night when the Crimson Tide attempt to turn the tables on SEC rival LSU in the BCS Championship game. While you may have heard his name, despite the fact that both teams road the defensive train here to the Big Easy, you probably haven’t heard much of his voice.
Control freak Alabama head coach Nick Saban only allowed McCarron to speak to the media three times all season — and each of those occasions were following games.
In fact, if Saban had his way, McCarron wouldn’t have had the chance to be heard here, either, but BCS rules require it.
So McCarron has done his duty talking about, among other things, why he doesn’t mind not talking, about his role on a team dominated by its defensive stars and tailback Trent Richardson, and the reason there is no period after the two letters in his first name (mom’s decision.)
And with a rare window open to his personality, the 21-year-old sophomore talked about his need to play with some emotion against the dangerous Tigers defence on Monday, a style suited to Namath and Stabler but not Saban, who lambasted McCarron after an Oct. 1 win over Florida for being too animated on the field.
“I’ve got to play with emotion,” McCarron said this week. “Last game (against LSU, a 9-6 loss in November), I just tried to stay calm. In the end, I wasn’t playing my game. After the Florida game, when I was getting the crowd going, coach told me to calm down.
“After the LSU game, he told me to play with emotion again, that he missed that.”
Emotion is one thing, effectively moving an offence against the stout Tigers is another. An LSU unit loaded with players destined for the NFL only surrendered more than 11 points once in its final nine games and held Alabama to just a pair of field goals during their celebrated regular-season meeting.
But there has been signs of growth in McCarron’s game lately that suggest the Alabama attack may be a little more aggressive than in the previous LSU meeting.
Canadian Jesse Palmer, a former SEC quarterback with the Florida Gators and now a college football analyst with ESPN, watched McCarron last summer at the Manning Passing Academy, not far from here in Thibodaux, La., and put him in some heady company.
“I think AJ has all the tools and the skill-set. He’s proven it on tape throughout the year that he can be a very successful quarterback,” Madden told the QMI Agency in an interview Saturday. “I watched him at the (Manning camp) and I watched him throw right beside (Standord’s) Andrew Luck and (Oklahoma State’s) Brandon Weeden and he’s right there in terms of skill.
“I think the 45-day layoff favours Alabama because of AJ McCarron. As only a sophomore, to get back on the field, get back in the film room is huge for him because he can only play better. His ability is off the charts.”
Those other two QBs, of course, were among the best in college football this season, with Luck the likely first overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. Playing in a conservative offence at Alabama hasn’t allowed McCarron to utilize those skills, but with not much to separate between the Tigers and Tide just a couple big plays could make the difference.
“He can get it done, he’s got a lot of self confidence,” Palmer said. “And he’s got a little chip on his shoulder. Everyone’s talking about the defence and I think he feels second-class in this game.”
TWO OF A KIND?
NEW ORLEANS — Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee have one thing in common from the first time their LSU Tigers met Alabama: Neither quarterback led their team to a touchdown.
In keeping with the de-emphasis on offence in this year’s national championship matchup, the LSU quarterback situation may be the greatest example.
Jefferson was supposed to start the season, but after an incident in a Baton Rouge bar led to assault charges, Lee took over and led his team to four consecutive blowout victories. He was doing a good job in that first ’Bama meeting back in November too, until the offence stalled.
Coach Les Miles went to the bullpen midway through that contest and Jefferson did just enough to get his team the win and earn the starting gig the rest of the way.
“The difficult situation (Jefferson) was in certainly provided him with an experience that helped him show his leadership,” Miles said. “As a result of that, I see him really preparing to play his best football.”
Jefferson, who may be the more versatile of the two because of his skill running the option, says he no longer gets busted up about anything that happens on the football field.
“I feel like I’m more prepared because what I went through was a tremendous amount of adversity,” Jefferson said. “It was more than can be compared to what will happen to me on the field as far as throwing a pick or fumbling the ball.”