The Tide QB Race: Extended Story

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- The questions around town and campus
come at Phillip Sims like a relentless defensive end -- one he
doesn't try to dodge.

Which quarterback will take the reins for potential national
title contender Alabama this season? Sims, or AJ McCarron?

"People are going to ask you questions about it no matter where
you are," said Sims, a redshirt freshman. "I think running from
it is only going to make things worse. Just face it. It's a
competition and everybody wants to know what's going on."

That hasn't changed since Greg McElroy played his final down for
the Crimson Tide. While it's the most persistent question facing
the national title hopefuls, neither the coaches, the other players
nor the two contenders seems to be sweating it too much.

"I've been really happy with how both have grasped the things
we ask them to do," offensive coordinator Jim McElwain said. "I
wouldn't say one has one thing more than another. They both fit
really well in the system we're putting in to use their

And if the fans' questions haven't gone away, both McElwain and
the players have been shielded from speaking before cameras or tape recorders. Sunday's media day is the only time McElwain -- or any
other assistant -- is scheduled to speak to reporters annually. Sims
and McCarron had been off-limits since last season, too.

What became clear after they did talk? They're friends. They're
both confident in each other and themselves. And there's not a huge
difference in styles.

McCarron, a third-year sophomore, has been on campus a few
months longer, while Sims enrolled in January. Unlike Sims, he has
logged a few snaps, including a desperation drive in the final
seconds of a loss to Auburn.

How does McCarron avoid the subject? "I try not to get
interviewed a lot."

"It comes with the position," he said. "Especially at
Alabama, everybody wants to know who the quarterback is at all
times. Me and Phillip, we know what's going on, and we don't let
any of that bother us. We're out every day pushing each other to
get better. We're friends. It's not a rivalry at all. We're not
enemies. We don't let that stuff get to us.

"Everybody blows it up to make it like a rivalry, like we hate
each other. Me and him just laugh it off. It's nothing like that.
We both know that we're very good quarterbacks, and we're both
confident in our play."

Saban has indicated they're running even and that both could
play early in the season.

"I think both guys have done a really, really good job. They've
worked hard," he said. "They are both the kind of guys who spend
a lot of time trying to learn what they need to do. They enjoy that
part of the game. Gym rats, if you want to call them that. Both
guys do a good job of affecting their teammates. Basically the team
was doing 7-on-7 all summer three days a week.

"Coaches can't supervise that. They have to do that completely
on their own. The quarterbacks basically manage it for the entire
offense. Those guys did an outstanding job. So I'm pleased with
both guys. It would make it a little easier to make a determination
if both guys weren't doing things in a very positive way."

Both were heavily recruited. A couple of recruiting services
rated Sims the nation's top quarterback prospect two years ago
after he led Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake, Va., to a 48-4
record as a four-year starter.

McCarron threw 66 touchdown passes and just nine interceptions
in three seasons at Saint Paul's Episcopal in Mobile, Ala., and won
a state title.

He quickly passed once-prized recruit Star Jackson -- who later
transferred -- in his redshirt year and would have been McElroy's
replacement if he'd been hurt in the national title game.

McElwain said both have strong arms and quick releases, and that
the key intangible is which one is less likely to throw
interceptions. McElroy threw only 10 in 658 passes.

McCarron did attempt 48 passes last season without an
interception. He's not sure how much difference that playing time
will make in the ongoing competition.

"You don't really need game experience that much," he said.
"I think it helps, but if you can play the game, play the game.
It's going to cut down on mistakes a little. But coach teaches us
well enough that we know how to take care of the ball, and that's
what you've got to do. Especially with this defense we've got."

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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