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No Worries at QB for Alabama

By Matt Osborne
SouthernPigskin.com
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Unlike most offenses, the overall success of Alabama’s offensive system is not mostly determined by the play at the quarterback position.

Much of the talk heading out of Alabama’s annual A-Day Game at Bryant-Denny Stadium revolved around the Crimson Tide’s lack of production from the quarterback position.

With the graduation of two-time national championship-winning signal caller A.J. McCarron, Alabama started spring practice with three quarterbacks – Blake Sims, Cooper Bateman and Alec Morris – competing to take the controls of Lane Kiffin’s new offensive scheme. Florida State transfer Jacob Coker, who spent last season as Jameis Winston’s backup, is also expected to ultimately factor into the competition, but he will not enroll in Tuscaloosa until the summer.

Playing in front of more than 73,000 Alabama fans on Saturday afternoon, Alabama’s trio of quarterback competitors all turned in underwhelming performances. Sims, Bateman and Morris combined to complete just 27-of-61 passing attempts (44.3 percent) for 343 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.

As the most glamorous position in all of college football, it is easy to become fully enthralled and captivated when a quarterback competition occurs at a premier program such as Alabama. After all, the starting quarterback is almost always the most easily-recognized player on the team, meaning that fans are eager to see which player will lead the offense into battle during the fall.

While many Crimson Tide fans are already lamenting the subpar quarterback performances displayed at the A-Day Game, the simple fact of the matter is that, for Nick Saban, quarterback play simply isn’t as important as it is everywhere else.

The Crimson Tide have become the dominant program in college football by lessening the importance of any one particular player to the overall success of the team. Defensively, Alabama has become the nation’s top power in the country by implementing a system predicated on balance and cohesiveness. Although an occasional player has emerged as an exception to the rule, Alabama’s defense has generally thrived despite the lack of a large quantity of players who have been standouts from a statistical standpoint.

Though one player must be responsible for handling the football during every offensive play, Alabama’s attempt to lessen the overall importance of any individual has been made evident by the team’s commitment to running the football. Playing with a veteran and proven quarterback in McCarron in 2013, the Crimson Tide still ranked just 101st in the FBS in passing attempts per game (28.1).

With advanced knowledge at the ground game will be the focal point of the offense this fall, there is certainly no reason to believe that Alabama will be forced to deal with offensive difficulties in 2014.

Alabama is set to return three starters off of an offensive line which helped the Crimson Tide average 5.8 yards per carry a season ago. The leadership abilities of Arie Koundkjio, Ryan Kelly and Austin Shepherd should help the Crimson Tide become an even more dominant rushing team that they were in 2013.

The offensive line will also have the tremendous luxury of a talented assortment of running backs lining up in the backfield. T.J. Yeldon returns after leading the team with 1,235 yards as a sophomore, while rising sophomore Derrick Henry has the physical tools to become the most dominant running back in the entire nation. Kenyan Drake, Jalston Fowler and Altee Tenpenny also stand to factor into the mix as well.

Unlike most offenses, the overall success of Alabama’s offensive system is not mostly determined by the play at the quarterback position.

While the term “game manager” is often used as a negative term, having quarterbacks willingly fill that role has allowed the team to bring home three national championships in the past five years.

Regardless of which quarterback lines up under center for Alabama’s season-opener against West Virginia, the Crimson Tide are in no danger of having to overcome offensive deficiencies from their signal caller this fall; the offensive system simply won’t allow it to take place.

Matt Osborne - Matt Osborne currently serves as the director of recruiting and lead editor for Southern Pigskin. His work has been published in a number of national publications, including USA Today. Although he loves all levels of football, Matt's number one joy in his life is his relationship with Jesus Christ. Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattOsborne200. For media requests, please email Matt at matt@southernpigskin.com.