Only Alabama’s returning starter AJ McCarron knows what it’s like to leave the sideline as a college quarterback. The transfer of backup Phillip Sims to Virginia last month leaves Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban with more former quarterbacks on his coaching staff than in his bullpen.
So he might get creative.
Saban said there are options beyond redshirt freshman Phillip Ely and incoming freshman Alec Morris.
“I think last year, we actually had a plan for Blake Sims to play quarterback,” Saban said Tuesday before a Crimson Caravan stop in Birmingham. “He played quarterback in high school. He’s a different style of quarterback than what we have, but we also have the flexibility on offence.”
Blake Sims could add a running threat in a “Wildcat” style role that the Tide tinkered with last season. The plans were scrapped before the national championship season began and Blake Sims saw limited playing time as a running back.
Ely, a traditional drop-back passer, redshirted in 2011 after enrolling a semester early. He completed 10 of 18 passes for 83 yards as the backup on the second-team offense in the A-Day spring game April 14.
Morris is set to arrive in Tuscaloosa this summer for classes. Saban said enrolling early, as Sims and Ely did, isn’t a prerequisite for making noise as a freshman.
“AJ didn’t come in early and by the middle of the season, he was a very, very good backup quarterback when he was a freshman,” Saban said. “Alec has a lot of positive qualities and is a very bright guy. I think he’ll be able to develop nicely for us.”
McCarron rose to the No. 2 job behind Greg McElroy in 2009, but since he never required playing time, the Mobile native was able to redshirt.
Saban also wished Phillip Sims well in his new situation.
“We hate to see him go, but at the same time I really understand there was a lot of personal things, illnesses on his family and he needs to be supportive of his family and he really needed to be closer to home,” Saban said.
Sims called the decision “a personal matter” in a statement released by Alabama.
“I wouldn’t change anything about my decision to come to Alabama and this has been one of the greatest experiences of my life,” said Sims, one of the top high school quarterbacks in the Class of 2010.
A more tragic situation quickly ended Saban’s pre-interview jokes with reporters Tuesday evening.
Saban, who coached Junior Seau with the Miami Dolphins in 2005, said the linebacker’s recent suicide effected him profoundly.
Seau started five of the seven games he played under Saban before an ankle injury ended his season.
“It’s just really difficult to think that maybe there may have been something you could do to help him or whatever,” Saban said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, but man, what a great guy and a great football player.”
Seau, a 20-year NFL veteran who retired in 2009, was found dead May 2 in Oceanside, Calif., from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Three stops remain on the Crimson Caravan, a regional barnstorming tour of the southeast with Saban as the keynote speaker. It’ll be in Memphis on Thursday before hitting the Marriott Shoals Hotel on May 15. The nine-city tour ends May 17 at the Columbus (Ga.) Convention and Trade Center. The $50 tickets are still listed for each stop on Alabama’s official athletics website for the events starting at 6 p.m. local time.