By Trent Moore
With Bama’s blowout win well in hand before the end of the second quarter, backup quarterback Blake Sims checked in to lead a touchdown drive in the second quarter and held onto the reins the entire second half.
He ran all over Western Carolina for 70 yards and 1 touchdown. But when it came time to throw the ball, he was just 2-6 for 27 yards, with one misfired screen pass going behind the intended receiver causing a mad dash scramble to recover it. His only deep ball flew into double coverage, and luckily bounced off the hands of a Catamount safety.
Even in obvious passing situations Sims was able to use his feet to make plays against the Catamounts, breaking one third quarter dash for 23 yards and a long first down. But that won’t work against — and no disrespect to the 1-10 Catamounts — better teams.
Sims is a stud when it comes to the read option, but he looked lost Saturday in obvious passing situations. If his first read was covered he ran, and though it worked out well this time, a team like LSU or Florida would snuff that one-trick pony out pretty quickly.
On the same day that junior quarterback A.J. McCarron took over as the team’s single season passing leader with 21 touchdown tosses this year, it also became pretty obvious that he is the only legitimate passing threat on the roster. With A.J., so goes (what’s left of) the season. If he were to go down in the home stretch, the Tide’s prolific offense would turn one-dimensional very, very fast.
There’s no arguing that Sims is one of the best athletes the Tide has fielded in recent years, which is why Nick Saban & Co. have moved him all over the roster to try and get him on the field. But when heir apparent QB Phillip Sims opted to transfer to Virginia instead of ride the pine behind McCarron, it left the Tide a lot thinner than most fans would care to admit.
Fellow back-up Phillip Ely, a redshirt freshmen, has looked decent in his brief time on the field in mop-up duty this season, but Saban seems keen to give the extremely athletic Sims some time to grow in the role to see if he can finally give the Tide the run-pass threat they haven’t had in years.
Saban himself admitted Sims still has a long way to go, which is why he wanted to give him as many snaps as possible against the Catamounts.
“We wanted to put [Sims] in at least one series with the first-team offense and I thought he did a good job,” Saban said. “I think we still have work to do. Blake has ability to throw the ball, but he gets real antsy sometimes, especially in the pocket. I think the experience today probably would help him, but all in all I thought he did a pretty good job.”
More than anything, Saturday’s game raises the question of who will take over for McCarron after next season. With the talent Saban has brought in, Bama should have a championship caliber team for years to come — but they better start developing a few more field generals to lead the way in the future.