Alabama Football: What Phillip Ely’s Transfer Would Mean for Crimson Tide’s Quarterback Depth


John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

A few days ago, a report came out that Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Phillip Ely was considering a transfer to South Florida to play for his hometown school.

Ely will be entering his redshirt sophomore season if he chooses to stay in Tuscaloosa, and as of right now he is sitting third on the depth chart behind AJ McCarron and Blake Sims. Ely and Sims were considered co-backups to McCarron for most of 2012, but towards the end of the season it became obvious that Sims had supplanted Ely as the Tide’s backup quarterback.

Ely has looked incredibly raw, which isn’t unexpected for a young quarterback. When he signed with Alabama in 2011 out of Tampa Plant High School in Tampa, FL, Ely was considered a long term project for the Crimson Tide coaching staff.

Ely came to Alabama as a three-star recruit in 2011 with offers from programs such as Clemson, LSU and Ole Miss.

His reason for potentially transferring could be something as simple as being homesick, or he may not believe he will ever take a meaningful snap in his career at the Capstone.

Ely’s intentions are not yet known, but what would his decision to transfer mean for Alabama’s quarterback depth in 2013?

Depth at quarterback was an issue last season, with nobody really having much confidence in either Ely or Blake Sims if something was to happen to AJ McCarron. The season hinged on McCarron being able to stay healthy, and thankfully he was able to do just that as he guided the Crimson Tide to their second straight BCS National Championship.

But every Alabama fan in the country held their breath when McCarron went down clutching his knee in Columbia against Missouri. It turned out to be nothing serious, but we got a glimpse of how fragile the season really was for the Crimson Tide.

Blake Sims is the backup quarterback it seems, regardless of whether or not Ely decides to stay at Alabama, but that’s not all that reassuring. When Sims saw action at quarterback in 2012, Alabama changed their offensive gameplan to a read-option look that Sims ran very effectively at times.

Running the read option with Sims was Alabama’s best bet of doing anything offensively without McCarron in the game. Sims didn’t seem to be much of a threat as a passer, but he only had 10 passing attempts all season. He completed 5 of them for 77 yards. He carried the ball 30 times for 187 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Alec Morris, a 6-foot-3 235 pound quarterback from Allen, Texas, figures to be a factor in the battle for McCarron’s backup job. Morris redshirted last season after coming to Alabama as a three-star quarterback. Morris was originally a Wake Forest commit, but switched when the Tide offered. Alabama didn’t start heavily recruiting Morris until they missed out on Jameis Winston.

Morris, like Ely, is considered more of a long term prospect, so who knows if he will be able to contribute next season. He has great arm strength and can make all the necessary throws, but he’s still very raw.

Alabama has two quarterbacks who have enrolled early in the 2013 recruiting class in Cooper Bateman and Parker McLeod. Bateman is considered to be the better prospect, earning a four-star rating according to as the 11th-best quarterback prospect in the country.

Bateman stands at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds from Salt Lake City, Utah and is widely considered to be the heir apparent to current starter AJ McCarron. Scouts say that Bateman has one of the biggest arms of any quarterback in the 2013 class, but he will need to improve his accuracy.

He was also a shotgun quarterback in high school, so making the adjustment to Alabama’s pro-style, under center attack will take some time. Still, Bateman has all the tools to be a very good starting quarterback in the SEC, and he could definitely be the Tide’s starting quarterback in 2014.

McLeod, a three-star prospect from Marietta, Georgia who is 6-foot-2 and 189 pounds, is considered to be more of a long-term prospect. He will almost certainly redshirt in 2013.

Alabama will probably try to redshirt Cooper Bateman in 2013 as well, with Blake Sims and/or Alec Morris taking care of the mop-up duty when the Crimson Tide has a game well in hand. With both Bateman and McLeod enrolling early, however, they each have a shot at making a run at the backup quarterback job.

The No. 2 spot on the depth chart behind McCarron seems to be wide open, with neither Sims nor Ely impressing much when they have seen action to stake their claim for the job, and Morris having never taken a snap. If either one of the quarterbacks who have enrolled early in Tuscaloosa can develop quickly, it will go a long way in solving Alabama’s depth issues at the position.

As of right now, 2013 looks a lot like 2012 in terms of the season riding on AJ McCarron being able to stay healthy. Losing McCarron to injury next season would be devastating with no proven option sitting behind him on the depth chart.

The health of AJ McCarron is of the utmost importance in 2013. It only takes one snap to drastically change the course of a season. Alabama has depth all over the field to overcome injuries at every position outside of quarterback.

The depth at quarterback figures to be a huge question mark next season regardless of what Phillip Ely ultimately decides.

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