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April 29, 2012

HURT: QB situation just got interesting

Over the weekend, eight University of Alabama football players left the Crimson Tide program with great fanfare, selected in the National Football League draft.

One other left more quietly.

There wasn't anything stealthy or surreptitious about Phillip Sims' decision to ask for his release from Alabama.

The sophomore quarterback came to Tuscaloosa, competed for three springs without ever edging ahead of AJ McCarron on the depth chart and made a perfectly reasonable decision to look for other opportunities elsewhere.

He made a gracious statement upon his departure ,and it's hard to imagine a single Alabama fan who doesn't wish Sims well, wherever he lands.

Maybe, in a couple of years, he'll join some of his old Alabama teammates in a future NFL Draft.

It may be too much of a "business" decision for some people, but it is entirely in keeping with the quarterback position.

There isn't a program in the Southeastern Conference that hasn't seen a quarterback transfer out (or, in some cases, transfer in) over the past four years.

Sims - a prep legend in his home state of Virginia - had a higher profile, and may well be a better quarterback, than Jimmy Barnes, or Star Jackson, or Nick Fanuzzi.

But they all took a similar route in search of playing time and, to be fair and take Sims at his word, "family matters."

For Sims, all that is required from Tuscaloosa is a heartfelt "bon voyage." For those he leaves behind, the situation is more problematic.

Alabama has a starting quarterback, and a good one, the Most Valuable Player in the most recent BCS championship game.

McCarron is solid. But Sims was a good insurance policy, even though Alabama never had to file a claim. Now, the backups to McCarron are completely inexperienced.

The two other quarterbacks on the fall roster will both be listed as freshmen, Phillip Ely and 2012 signee Alec Morris.

Could Alabama win with Ely, for the sake of argument, at quarterback? He'd be surrounded by good talent, and saying he's an unknown quantity doesn't automatically mean he couldn't handle the job.

The Crimson Tide's success isn't as tied to any one player, even McCarron, as the 2004 team was to Brodie Croyle, for instance. Ely will get plenty of reps, and while any unforeseen occurrence that sidelined McCarron would be unwelcome, it might not be nuclear.

One thing is certain: signing a quarterback (at least one, and probably two) is a recruiting priority for Alabama now.

The opportunity available to a blue-chip prospect - especially one looking at a two-times-in-three-years BCS champion - may never be so enticing. Alabama tried to convince Gunner Kiel and Jameis Winston of that fact a year ago, but couldn't.

That hasn't caused a crisis, and it might be that the heir apparent to McCarron is already on campus. But that heir isn't quite apparent yet, not in the way that it was just a few days ago.

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.



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