If you needed one quarterback to direct your offense in a must win game this college football season, who would be your first pick? Teddy Bridgewater? Tajh Boyd? Aaron Murray or Johnny Manziel? You probably could not go wrong with any of those options, but I will take Alabama’s A.J. McCarron before any of them if we are talking about one game, or even just one drive.
Each week of the college football season I am recapping the top performances among the candidates for the Golden Arm Award, awarded to the top senior quarterback by the Johnny Unitas Foundation. My top five performers will be shared via Athlon Sports every Monday. If you have not seen this week’s recap, Alabama’s McCarron is my top performer this week after the display he showed against Texas A&M. To me, it is almost comical how little we seem to pay attention to McCarron.
When we talk about the top quarterbacks in the country, we talk about guys like Bridgewater and Boyd and some of the top names in the SEC. The first two that generally come to mind are preseason All-SEC quarterback Aaron Murray of Georgia — last week’s top performer — and last season’s Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M. You can take your preseason accolades and your individual hardware. Give me a guy who has led the Crimson Tide to two consecutive BCS titles and I will be just fine. To me, McCarron is a proven winner and how could he not be?
I remember the start of the 2011 season. There had been some question as to which quarterback was going to ultimately be the guy who replaced Greg McElroy as Alabama’s starter. McElroy had moved on after his own successful career at Alabama, leading the Tide to the BCS title in the 2009 season. The choices were down to McCarron and Phillip Sims. I was covering Penn State football at the time when Alabama made the trip to State College, PA on September 10, 2011. I feel confident in saying McCarron’s performance against Penn State that afternoon cemented his job as the starting quarterback and obviously it has worked out. McCarron and Sims had split playing time the previous week but McCarron had the much better performance against Kent State, but his game management against Penn State the following week showed he was poised to take over the offense. He was far from ready to take the lead in the offense but had some
quality players to carry the bulk of the offense like Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy on the ground and a lock-down defense led by guys like C.J. Mosley, Mark Barron, and Don’ta Hightower just to name a few. Over time McCarron would continue to embrace his role under center and has emerged as a leader. Now in his third year starting in the offense, McCarron already has two BCS titles to his name and is off to a solid start in getting a chance for a third opportunity.
Alabama got down early at Texas A&M. Manziel and the Aggies attacked the Alabama defense on their first two possessions and built a 14-0 lead while Alabama looked like South Alabama early on. But a tested quarterback like McCarron was smart enough to realize games are played over 60 minutes for a reason and he soon led Alabama roaring back. He tossed three touchdown passes in the first half from outside the red zone and showed tremendous poise as Alabama took control against the Aggies. As the game played out, much was made about the offensive production Manziel had, and for good reason. Manziel may in fact be the best player in college football right now, depending on who you ask, and it would be difficult to argue otherwise. Manziel also made thing interesting as Texas A&M may have just run out of time in what turned out to be a back-and-forth game.
He may not have had the stats Manziel had, but McCarron’s 20 for 29, 334 yards and four touchdowns (and zero interceptions) speaks for itself, especially on the road at Texas A&M against a team that could very well be in a BCS bowl game at the end of the year.
I will give you any other quarterback to lead your team for one drive with the game on the line. But I’ll take McCarron first.
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