It is no secret that AJ McCarron will have the brightest of spotlights on him this season as he looks to guide Alabama Football to its second championship in as many years. After limited opportunities in the 2011 regular season, McCarron took the Superdome by storm with a 23-34, 234-yard performance.
Since that fateful January night, the reigns that once restrained the highly touted quarterback into a game manager, have now been eased as the junior looks to be instrumental in the Tide’s passing game this year.
In the limited viewing sessions, the Tide quarterback slings the ball 30 yards down the field with a picturesque spiral that rises from his finger tips into the air into a perfect arch as it glides into the awaiting receiver’s hands in perfect stride. He may be a two-time visitor to the Manning Passing academy, but in those brief moments at practice it is McCarron who is putting on a clinic.
Yet, every time the man in the No.1 10 jersey cranks that arm back firing off another laser guided missile, I think of the impact he will make without ever throwing a pass. After all, it is the great players who can make an impact on the game by their sheer presence.
Look no further than the national championship game on January 9th. It was LSU’s focus defensively on stopping Trent Richardson that allowed McCarron to open things up in the passing game en route to Offensive MVP honors. Now, this year, McCarron will return the favor.
Earlier I told you of the role Alabama’s running game must have this season, and introduced you to the four running backs that will most likely carry the load in the backfield. While the Crimson Tide has four great running backs, the fact remains that there is no elite back like Richardson in the stable.
However, with the focus this year shifting from the running game to the passing game, teams will no longer be able to stack the line of scrimmage. Gone are the days of opponents’ safeties setting up camp in the box.
Now with a legitimate threat under center, the running lanes may be just a bit wider and rushing productivity may actually increase because of fewer defenders at the line of scrimmage. Throw in the best offensive line in the country, and Alabama’s running game may maintain its elite level status, even without that elite back.
When all is said and done in 2012, I think McCarron will have a better season statistically than his 2011 campaign. I think his yardage will be a bit higher and touchdown passes will slightly increase, while his accuracy and completion percentage make noticeable improvements.
McCarron will be a force on the field this season, for both the plays he makes and the plays he makes for others.