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November 7, 2012TUSCALOOSA | AJ McCarron is changing more plays at the line of scrimmage this season, a freedom he's come to be more comfortable with over time.
And the University of Alabama's offense is better off for it.
In his second year as a starter at quarterback, the junior from Mobile sees all sorts of defensive schemes. From man or zone coverage in the secondary to well-disguised blitzes, stacked fronts to take away the UA rushing attack, and more, McCarron has as much or more information to digest before a given play as he does during one.
"It falls back on the trust that coach Saban has in me, coach Nuss (Doug Nussmeier) has in me. They've given me great opportunity to get us out of bad plays," McCarron said. "When the defense shows a certain coverage, certain defense, it allows me to get us into a better play, run or pass."
Typically, McCarron's communication with his teammates before the snap, be it spoken or with hand signals, is obvious to fans. But just because he's communicating doesn't mean he's checking off.
"A lot of my signals can be dummy signals, just to make the defense think. Then a lot of them actually mean something," McCarron said. "(That's) a little Manning Camp special right there. I learned that from Peyton. He says some crazy things."
McCarron said he may check off to a different play only 5-10 times in some games, whereas in other games "it seems like almost every play I'm checking off."
Often or not, McCarron is glad to have the choice, something that wasn't as much his to make last season.
"Last year it was 'Call it and run it'," McCarron said. "It goes back to trust, growing as a quarterback and I guess we've reached that point with coach Saban."
UA will face one of the SEC's most prolific receivers Saturday in Texas A&M's Ryan Swope.
"He's a great receiver. He's a great slot guy. He can get open, he's very physical," said UA safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. "We look forward to playing him this week."
Swope ranks fifth in the SEC in both catches per game (5.0), and receiving yards per game (71.2).
Saban's alma mater player well
Kent State, where UA coach Nick Saban played defensive back, is having a strong campaign this year at 8-1, and 5-0 in the Mid-American Conference. Kent State's only loss came on the road at Kentucky.
"I always kind of look and see what the Kent State score was. Kind of follow them week to week and it's really good to see that they're having a great year," Saban said. "It means something to me and it is my alma mater. A lot of people were very supportive and helpful to me when I was there - the coaches, the administrators that we had and the academic staff."
"It wasn't a beating in any way, it was more fun than anything, I guess. I'd definitely do it again. Probably more fun than I've had in a long time around here, that game. Even though it was a nail biter, I loved it." - UA guard Anthony Steen on how physical UA's 21-17 over LSU was.
Saban said no players were limited by injury in Tuesday's practice. Among those who have been battling minor injuries are receiver Amari Cooper and running back Eddie Lacy. "Everybody practiced today," Saban said. "Hopefully everyone will be A-OK for Saturday." ... Several members of Alabama's 1992 national championship team will be on hand for another appearance by the Travelers' Chip for Charity event at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday. Prince Wimbley, Antonio Langham and Derrick Lassic will participate and sign autographs as well. For each hole in one, Travelers will donate $100 to Saban's charity program, Nick's Kids. The event begins at 9:30 a.m. and the former UA players will arrive at noon.
Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0196.