TUSCALOOSA | Nick Saban noted following A-Day that he and his staff not only had 29 fall practices to make some personnel decisions, but perhaps two or three games as well.
On Wednesday, the University of Alabama coach made it clear that goes for every position, including quarterback.
With sophomore A.J. McCarron and freshman Phillip Sims performing to a relative statistical draw in spring scrimmages, the question of who will lead the Crimson Tide offense in 2011 may not have a fully-formed answer when fall camp ends. And Saban acknowledged the possibility that the two could share time at the position.
"Until somebody separates, I have no problem (playing both). I really don't," Saban said. "I like both guys, I have confidence in both guys, we have confidence in both guys and I think our players do. … Both guys were effective, both guys played well. Statistically you can look at it and cut it up all kinds different ways. I think just from a leadership and an execution standpoint, both guys made a lot of progress, both guys did a good job and we're going to continue to develop both guys. If they can both play winning football, then they both should be able to make some kind of contribution to our team."
Over three spring scrimmages, including A-Day, McCarron completed 58 of 111 passes for 666 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions. Sims' aggregate scrimmage performance was largely similar, completing 58 of 102 passes for 686 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions. Although A-Day is more of a game-like setting, the first two scrimmages are subject to a more controlled environment in which more situational scrimmaging is done.
No quarterbacks were subject to live contact during scrimmage work, including A-Day.
Over the summer months, all UA players prepare for the season largely on their own initiative, as NCAA rules limit the extent to which coaches can have contact with student-athletes. That means McCarron and Sims both will be responsible for their own progress before fall camp opens in early August.
"Both guys can continue to make progress. Neither guy has played (much), one guy not at all in terms of a college player, the other guy has played some as a backup player," Saban said. "It's important that those guys continue to develop the kind of knowledge, experience, confidence in doing their job, as well as the confidence of the people around them that they can trust and respect and believe that we can execute with those guys. How that all develops will be a real key to how far we can go as an offensive team next year. The key to it is going to be how these guys play when the fur flies, and that's when the game comes."
With former quarterback Greg McElroy navigating a two-year starting role without missing a start, game experience between McCarron and Sims is lacking. Although McCarron threw 48 passes last season, nearly all of them came in games that the Crimson Tide had well in hand. Sims has yet to throw a pass in a game, having redshirted as a freshman last season.
Saban added that No.3 quarterback Blake Sims may play as well this fall, noting that the redshirt freshman's skill set provides the coaching staff with some options at the quarterback position that are different from what McCarron and Phillip Sims can provide.
"He's very athletic and can make lots of plays with his feet. And he really sort of gives us a little different option relative to the other two guys in terms of style and type," Saban said. "That may be a good thing and he may be able to contribute a role because of that."
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com or at 205-722-0196.