AJ McCarron has led the Tide to a 12-1 record. (AP photo by Bill Haber)
This is my story for today’s print editions:
TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — The Crimson Tide got a 17-day break between the SEC Championship Game and the start of BCS practice, and maybe few Crimson Tide players needed it more than AJ McCarron.
There’s no particular injury he needed to heal, but just the general feeling that he could use some time off after playing 13 games in 14 weeks.
“I needed it a lot,” McCarron said. “I love this game, but we play it all year long. At some point you need a break. So it was good, but it was good for everybody else, for everybody get their feet back under them and try to get rid of little nagging injuries we had throughout the team, so I thought it was a good break.”
The 22-year-old junior joked he has creaked around like an old man, which even has offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier poking a little fun at him.
“It’s just getting old and being sore. Feel like I’ve been here 15 years,” McCarron said. “Coach Nuss always jokes with me, says I’m a 19 year veteran. Some days, I feel like it.”
McCarron announced last week he will play more football at Alabama — and not just the BCS National Championship Game against Notre Dame on Jan. 7. He will return next season for his senior year.
Why announce it now? According to McCarron, it made sense. As he prepares for the BCS game, he won’t have to deal with the question.
“I just wanted to get it out of the way. I’m tired of people asking me about it,” McCarron said. “You know, family members, you get a call every once in a while, friends or whatever, but my brother (sophomore tight end Corey McCarron), he’s here now and has a real good opportunity to play and I wanted to play with him, really.”
Also, there’s the chance to grow, which he said he wants to do.
“Hopefully, I’ll be able to showcase my talents a little bit more next year,” he said. “And just grow as a quarterback and a leader.”
He said he considered heading to the NFL briefly, unlike teammate C.J. Mosley, who said he didn’t give it a thought before announcing he will return for the 2013 season.
“I felt like the NFL isn’t going anywhere, so I want to get one more chance to play with him (Corey McCarron), so I wanted to make that happen,” he said.
It was the BCS game a year ago when Alabama put more of the game plan in McCarron’s hands than the Tide had at any point in the season. He wound up completing 23 of 34 passes for 234 yards in a 21-0 win over LSU. He won offensive most valuable player honors as a result.
“Last year we put a lot of faith, trust and confidence in him,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “We knew we were going to have a difficult time running the ball against the team that we played last year, LSU, and the quarterback was going to have to make plays in the game for us.
“We sort of just told him that, ‘We’re trusting in you. We believe in you that you can do this. We just don’t want you to force things. Just take what they give you. A lot of the passes that we’re going to have are going to be maybe not big plays but they’re going to be plays that are 5- and 7-yard gains.’ He did a tremendous job of executing and made some big plays.”
Saban said he hopes McCarron and his offense can do something similar this year against Notre Dame. But Saban won’t put it all on his quarterback.
“I’ve said it many times before, quarterback’s a tough position to play when the guys around you don’t play well,” he said. “I think our entire team has got to make it possible for the quarterback to be able to make plays.”
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