Editor's note: From now until the start of spring camp on March 16, TideNation will count down the 12 most intriguing players to watch on the Alabama football roster. Today we look at quarterback Alec Morris.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- When spring practice begins next Saturday and six scholarship quarterbacks trot out to the center of the football field, the competition will officially begin. Only starting quarterback AJ McCarron knows where he'll be Week 1 of the season against Virginia Tech. The rest of the depth chart is a mystery.
Phillip Ely and Blake Sims backed up McCarron during the 2012-13 season, but whatever returns they delivered were mixed at best. Head coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier seemed reluctant to turn to the pair. When Alabama led Notre Dame by four touchdowns in the national championship game and the outcome was a virtual lock, McCarron stayed under center rather than yield to his backups and avoid injury.
Ely, a traditional drop-back passer in his second season at Alabama, attempted just four passes in three games. Sims, a threat almost primarily as a runner in the read-option game, threw only 10 times. Experienced, the two are not. And there were many opportunities for them to come on late in games. Alabama averaged a 23.3-point lead after halftime in its 13 victories. The average score by the fourth quarter was Alabama 30, Opponent 7.
On signing day, Saban made it clear the battle to become Alabama's next quarterback after McCarron leaves is already underway. Seniority is no matter, he said. The best indication of who it might be will come this season, when a backup is named.
The odds on favorite to take the reins might be Alec Morris. The strong-armed Texan didn't play at all during his first year on campus, serving as an understudy without the benefit of game experience. The former three-star prospect spent last spring and fall learning the playbook, and now that the redshirt is off his back, he'll be able to put that knowledge to good use.
He certainly has the look of an SEC quarterback. At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, he's the biggest quarterback on the roster. McCarron, who is no shrinking violet himself, is the next largest at 210 pounds.
In fact, the two have more in common than a similar frame. McCarron took the same route in his career, redshirting the 2009 season before becoming the No. 2 quarterback behind Greg McElroy in 2010. McCarron and Morris also share an affinity for special teams as the young quarterback was one of McCarron's backups as a holder on field goal attempts. Taking the six degrees of Alabama quarterbacks theme one step further, Morris was a low-profile recruit, like McElroy, coming out of a Texas football powerhouse. Morris' alma mater, Allen High, is less than an hour away from McElroy's former stomping grounds, Carroll High in Southlake, Texas.
But all the coincidences in the world won't benefit Morris when he laces up his cleats on March 16 for the first day of spring practice. For all we already know about the stocky Texan, there's still much left to be discovered. First and foremost, can he supplant Ely and Sims as the Crimson Tide's No. 2 quarterback? Then, a year from now, the conversation can turn to whether or not he's capable of being McCarron's successor.
One thing at a time.