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March 21, 2011

QB battle takes to the air

TUSCALOOSA | For all the attention that will be placed this spring on University of Alabama quarterbacks A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims, who will vie for the quarterback position over 15 practices including three scrimmages, Nick Saban has plenty of other concerns.

The UA coach and his staff have plenty of teaching to do at a number of positions, and without the pressure of game-planning that comes with fall practice, spring is the ideal time to focus on the basics.

"The number one thing about spring practice is establishing fundamentals," Saban said. "We lost games last year because of fundamentals; fundamentals as simple as how to carry a football. … This is the time to become a master of your position."

And that's exactly the task for McCarron and Sims, who have little game experience between them as they begin the competition to replace departing senior Greg McElroy.

"You want to see guys show command in terms of their ability to manage the game," Saban said. "That they have control of the huddle and the other people in terms of their confidence. … (And) it's important that everybody around those guys understand it's hard to play quarterback if everybody else isn't doing what they are supposed to do."

McCarron and Sims aren't the only scholarship quarterbacks Alabama has at its disposal, but with incoming freshman Phillip Ely only now embarking upon his first collegiate practices, and with redshirt freshman Blake Sims having just moved to quarterback after spending his redshirt year at running back, McCarron and Sims are the obvious frontrunners. Saban has said there is no timetable for determining who will be the Crimson Tide's next signal caller.

One definite criteria for the role will be the candidate who makes fewer mistakes.

"Decision-making and judgment, psychological disposition toward taking what the defense gives you rather than trying to make big plays and forcing plays, which is sometimes the mentality of good players," Saban said of what he is looking for in a quarterback. "Take what the defense gives you, and that's how we'll move the ball and be successful. And that's how we'll function best as a team. But you can't take them and make them when they're not there."

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase.goodbread@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0196.


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