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April 19, 2014

Q&A: Greg McElroy on Alabama's quarterback battle

Former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy sat down with TideSports.com prior to Saturday's A-Day Game to talk about Alabama's quarterback competition, what it is like to be the starter for the Crimson Tide, what the new quarterbacks still have to learn and his new position on the SEC Network.

Q: How excited are you about your new role at the SEC Network?

Greg McElroy: "I'm just thrilled about the opportunity. Obviously playing in the NFL was a lifelong dream but I realized when I got up there that this is really where I wanted to be. I wanted to be in this college football realm and I'm really blessed that ESPN gave me the opportunity and the SEC Network is going to be an opportunity for success."

Q: For better or worse, your opinion and your analysis will carry a lot of weight in this league in your new role. How do you approach that?

GM: "Quite frankly, I've always had an opinion but I'm thankful now that I'm able to really evaluate, I'm really able to watch more - taking my crimson glasses off and taking out any type of bias I've ever had - I'll be able to watch as I was a player, I'll be able to watch and approach in a professional manner, I've really always enjoyed that. I'm looking forward to the opportunity and continuing to have that kind of mindset."

Q: What is going through the mind of Blake Sims, Jacob Coker and the other quarterbacks as this position battle unfolds?

GM: I think there are a lot of nerves of course. Obviously at this point in the spring, those guys other than Coker have had 14 practices to work out the chinks and get comfortable running the No. 1 offense. It'll be interesting to see how Blake preforms (Saturday) and Cooper Bateman and Alec Morris and the guys vying for that opportunity. I'm sure sitting in Jacob's situation, he's sitting there in the stands just anxious and wishing he had the opportunity to be out there today. I know if I was in his shoes I would be.

Q: You've been through these spring practices, how much of a hindrance do you think missing the spring can be for a guy like Coker?

GM: It is, it is a hindrance. It is difficult to come in in the fall basically without playing organized football for the better part of eight months. It's difficult and he's going to be behind the 8-ball a little bit, but he comes in with a nice reputation and obviously it was a great competition between him and Jameis (Winston) at Florida State last year so he has the talent, but will he have the comfort to handle the system against West Virginia on opening night.

Q: What do you expect to see with Lane Kiffin's new offense? Have you had a chance to talk to him at all?

GM: I've been around, but not a ton of opportunity to talk with Lane at this point but going forward that's something I'll be doing, talking to coaches throughout the SEC and develop those relationships.
I see this offense, really especially with a first-year quarterback, I see him trying to lean on the run game a little bit, T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake, Altee Tenpenny, those guys are experienced backs who have had success. They also have Jalston Fowler who is kind of in that fullback role. I seem them running more two-back sets, pro-style sets. Obviously if Blake Sims is the guy you'll see some of the spread offense I would imagine. But for the most part, they're going to try to lean on the run game just like they did in 2009 and 2011 breaking in first-year guys as well.

Q: What is one thing that Sims, Coker and the other quarterbacks don't know about being the starting quarterback at Alabama, something you don't learn until you've done it?

GM: These guys have to realize at some point through the course of this upcoming season, they're going to have a bad outing, a bad quarter, a bad series. Things aren't going to go to plan, and how they react, how they respond to that situation will really tell you a lot about what they are as a player and how they are as a leader and things like that. I don't think they know yet the negative aspects that come with playing the position and maybe the difficult aspects of playing the position because so much positive reinforcement is being done to a young starter. But at some point, they're going to get tested and they have to come through and success not only physically, but as a leader and have the rest of the teammates looking to them.

Q: in your mind, what is the one thing that will decide this quarterback battle come fall?

GM: Whoever Nick Saban trusts the most. That's who's going to be the guy. That's the guy who is going to make smart decisions, be efficient with the football, take completions when they are there, throw it away when it's not there and make the smart, football-minded play. The guy who limits the mistakes and gets explosive plays is going to be the guy. That also has to do with holding yourself to a higher standard in the classroom, being a leader off the field, all of those things would come into play I would imagine, and I'm anxious to see it."



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