AJ McCarron (Photo by: Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
Ever since Alabama’s star running back, Mark Ingram, won the Crimson Tide’s first ever Heisman trophy in 2009, the Tide has been on the quest for its second Heisman. This year it might be someone on offense other than the running backs who will be getting some valuable attention: A.J. McCarron. As the Tide’s starting quarterback since 2010, McCarron has led his team to back-to-back National Championships, something no other quarterback has ever done in the BCS era.
Alabama has become one of the most dominant running team in the country. In 2012, the Tide rushed as a team for over 3000+ yards, something that only a handful of teams have been able to do. Although Oregon, Wisconsin, and Georgia Tech are a few of the teams that had more rushing yards than the Tide in 2012, what sets Alabama apart is the caliber of defense in the SEC.
In the SEC, defense is what decides the games; the other team can’t win if the defense never lets them score. Alabama, who led the nation in the 2012 season with the least amount of yards per game (252.9), played SEC teams that were allowing less than 350 yards per game. Alabama was able to win against great defenses because Bama focused on the running game, one reason why the Heisman spotlight has not been on McCarron much in the past three years.
In other conferences such as the Big 12 and PAC 12, their quarterbacks are the key to their spread and pass offense which gives them the opportunity to amass huge impressive statistics, and numerous times their quarterbacks are in the Heisman spotlight. For example, in 2012, Matt Barkley, USC’s quarterback, passed for over 3000+ yards while his team only rushed for 1500+ yards.
A.J. McCarron has become one of the Tide’s best quarterbacks. McCarron, who had the best quarterback rating in the country with a 175.3, put his team rather than himself in the spotlight. Although McCarron completed 211/314 attempts for 2933 yards, the Tide’s running game was what made the headlines and newsreels.
As the 2013 football season approaches, what will AJ McCarron have to do to get in the Heisman spotlight?
The answer? Simply continue to execute consistently like last year. A.J. McCarron has been the glue for the offense the past two seasons. In the National Championship games in 2011 and 2012, McCarron looked calm, collected, and like a champion (pun intended). He made heroic plays when needed and helped his team in both the rushing and passing game. Also, McCarron is a very mature quarterback. As the nation saw in Death Valley last November, McCarron’s ability to stay calm and collected helped the Tide bring life into Death Valley by completing 4/5 passes, including a screen pass to TJ Yeldon with a minute left in the game, to win 21-17.
If McCarron plays as expected, he could not only be a Heisman candidate but could lead his team to three straight National Championships, a feat never accomplished before. AJ McCarron’s choice to stay for his senior season was the right decision. It is hoped that his decision will have a better outcome than his counterpart, Matt Barkley, whose team had a dismal season despite Barkley’s decision to return for his senior year. But Barkley and USC didn’t have two National Championships under their belt; A.J. and the Tide are hungry for a third and that will make all the difference. A.J. McCarron, in my opinion, made a great decision by staying. He has another year to improve in areas he wants to focus on, to have a shot at winning a Heisman, and to make history as the only college quarterback to lead his team to three straight National Championships.
Alabama is known for several things: great coaches, dominant defenses, legendary quarterbacks, and 15 National Championships. This year, A. J. McCarron could join the ranks of legends Joe Namath, Bart Starr, and Kenny Stabler by being the quarterback who brought the three-peat dynasty, as well as another Heisman trophy back to Alabama.