This time last year, A.J. McCarron was battling Phillip Sims for the starting quarterback job.
As far as anyone knew, it was anyone’s job to win.
Before Alabama’s season opener, it was announced that McCarron would lead the Tide.
This year, of course, things are different as McCarron is the guy, no questions asked. In his first year as a starter, he went 219 of 328 for 2,634 yards and had an interception-to-touchdown ratio of 5:16. Then in the national championship game, he completed 23 of 34 passes for 234 yards and was named MVP.
So does he feel like there’s a difference in the fall as a clear starter as opposed to when sharing equal reps?
“I don’t think there’s any difference,” he said. “You’ve got to compete in whatever you do. I don’t think Peyton Manning, just because he’s a future Hall of Famer, he’s not competing every day or taking plays off. If you do that you’re not going to be great and you obviously don’t want to be very successful in this game that we play.
“So, no, it doesn’t matter to me if I’m competing against somebody or not. I’m still going out there worried about myself. I can’t worry about anybody else. I’m going to do the best I can and go from there.”
Speaking of Peyton Manning, McCarron, who has attended several of the Manning Passing Academy camps, says he keeps in touch with the whole family.
“I’ll shoot them a little text and ask for their advice on certain things,” he said. “I think it helps.”
At Friday’s morning practice session, McCarron was paired with redshirt freshman Phillip Ely. They threw it a lot, but there was no pitch count. Saturday, incoming freshman Alec Morris and sophomore Blake Sims, who competed in Friday’s evening session. will be added to the mix.
With one year—and a national title—under his belt, McCarron said he doesn’t feel like he’s a different player heading into this season.
“I think I’m the same player,” he said. “A little wiser of the game, but other than that, I feel like mid- to last part of the season, I felt like I was on top of everything. I knew the game. The game slowed down. It was definitely easier than it was at the beginning of the season.”
This year Alabama has a new offensive coordinator in Doug Nussmeier, who replaces Jim McElwain. McCarron gushed about his new coach.
“He’s awesome, really cool, down to earth,” McCarron said. “He cuts jokes in the film room. It’s definitely a cool experience working with him so far and for our relationship as coach and quarterback to keep growing.”
McCarron said he’s noticed similarities and differences between Nussmeier and McElwain.
“Both of those coaches are almost the same types of guys,” he said. “Both come from the West Coast, same mentality. I mean any OC wants to throw the ball. Usually, your OCs played quarterback. But I mean, I don’t really know how much they’re the same. Coach Mac had his funny ways of doing things and so does Coach Nuss. It was a pleasure working with Coach Mac. I love him to death. I still talk to him. It’s been a pleasure working so far with Coach Nuss. I’m looking forward to it.”
McCarron, who said he put on a little weight over the summer (220 lbs.) but has dropped it back down (210-215 range), said he felt the team really bonded in the off-season.
“The team chemistry grew,” he said. “A lot of younger guys learned a lot of things in that short period of time. Hopefully it’ll help them throughout camp.”
The older and younger players will integrate for today’s practice after being split into two groups Friday.
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