- Cullman, Alabama

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September 3, 2011

TALKIN' TIDE: McCarron makes strong case to start

TUSCALOOSA — No one knew it at 11:19 a.m., but by around 2:30 p.m. Saturday, fans had a pretty good idea that the A.J. McCarron era at the University of Alabama might be underway.

The Crimson Tide’s quarterback competition didn’t look quite as competitive as advertised this spring, with redshirt sophomore McCarron completing 14-of-23 passes for 226 yards and one touchdown en route to Bama’s 48-7 win over Kent State.

McCarron’s main competition, redshirt freshman Phillip Sims, completed just 73 yards, hitting on 7-of-14 attempts.

Both players threw two interceptions.

Both were listed as co-starters, but one looked a lot better than the other.

The extra year McCarron has spent in the offense showed, as he checked down to open receivers and took the long shots when they were open, with several connections going to Marquis Maze. His tendency to take dangerous shots into coverage in the A-Day spring game seems to have passed, which should work in his favor as he vies for the starting spot.

McCarron seemed comfortable handing the ball off and managing the game, traits that are a premium for coach Nick Saban. Though he threw two picks, one came on a tipped ball that could have been caught.

“I think there are good interceptions and bad interceptions, and we had a couple of bad ones, but there is a lot to learn from it,” the coach said.

Sims, though he may have the edge in sheer athleticism, didn’t seem to handle pressure all too well, as one interception on a jumped route was returned all the way to the Tide’s 3-yard line. But, when forced out of the pocket, Sims made the most of his speed — rushing for 15 yards on three carries.

Despite the fact that any armchair coach might want to make the call after Week 1, Saban didn’t flinch when asked if anyone has pulled ahead. Both players are talented — and capable of making plays — and he still sees the competition as wide open — publicly at least.

Obviously, the coaching staff and players know a lot more as far as what these guys are capable of than we do. Look no further than Maze, who said both QBs have their own sets of skills.

“Both guys took control of the huddle,” he said. “If you took off their number, you wouldn’t know who they were.”

Series were split three-and-three between Sims and McCarron against Kent State, and it’s possible that could be the case next week against Penn State in Happy Valley.

Maybe Sims had a case of nerves this week and will shake it off by next weekend and show the world what Saban and Co. already seem to know.

Whatever happens, Sims has a lot of ground to make up against McCarron, in public perception if nothing else.

Trent Moore can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 220 or at

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