Much has been written about Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron’s leadership off the field as of late, but that is only part of what makes him such a fantastic leader for this team.
McCarron’s skills as an athlete have him in a position to be the first Alabama QB to win three consecutive national championships. Here are some of the things that go into making his game what it is.
Decision Making and Efficiency
AJ McCarron has started 27 games over the last two years, and in those 27 games he’s thrown 46 touchdowns to just eight interceptions. He’s also completed 430 of 642 passes or 67.3 percent, for 5,567 yards. McCarron was 25th in passing efficiency in 2011 and first in the entire country in 2012. McCarron already holds the record for single season passing TDs (30 in 2012) and career passing TDs (49), and he will likely own every career passing record by the end of the 2013 season.
McCarron doesn’t take the unnecessary risks he did when he was labeled a young gunslinger. At times he will simply take what the defense is giving, dink and dunking defenses to death, to set up a more explosive play. Some QBs will force a longer pass rather than simply dumping the pass off to a back or tight end; McCarron doesn’t put his defense in bad situations by turning the ball over, and if a play isn’t there usually won’t try to force it.
McCarron trusts his receivers. He especially had confidence last season in freshman Amari Cooper, so he will take shots at times; the first deep pass to Cooper early against Georgia, for example. McCarron will at times throw it up and give his man a shot with a high pass, but those plays are typically ones where the receiver is the only man that can make the play.
Play Action Pass
The first and most important aspect of the play action pass is a productive running game. If the running game isn’t effective, no defense is going to bite on play action.
The second part of the play action is ball handling. The play action pass is on the endangered species list in college football at this point, and a lot of quarterbacks are very lazy with their ball fakes. McCarron is not one of those QBs. He holds the ball out for the defenders to see as if he’s handing the ball to the runner, as in the examples below:
Notice the way McCarron makes sure to show the defense the ball to freeze them. McCarron has become a wizard of the play action, making him one of the deadliest QBs in the country in that aspect. The numbers tell the story. In 2012 McCarron completed 27 passes of 20 or more yards on play action, with 13 TDs and 0 INTs.
Control of the Offense
If play action isn’t the best part of McCarron’s game on the field, then it’s certainly his control of Alabama’s offense. When you see McCarron screaming and pointing towards the defense or talking to his lineman or running backs at the line, he isn’t just having a nice conversation. McCarron is checking to a new play or calling out new blocking and Nick Saban trusts him to get Alabama into the right play if the defense shows something McCarron doesn’t like.
The Deep Ball
One of the aspects of McCarron’s game that Alabama fans have been treated to over the past several years is an accurate deep ball. In 2012 he completed 57.1 percent of passes over 40 yards and was a staggering 85.7 percent in passes 30-35 yards. McCarron has a big arm, and can hit the deep ball with consistency; unlike past Alabama passers Greg McElroy or John Parker Wilson. And with burners like Kenny Bell, Amari Cooper and DeAndrew White on the field, it’s a huge part of his game, and is likely what will lead to even more explosive pass plays in 2013.