Offseason spotlight: Alabama

We’re kicking off a series today on the SEC blog where we take a team-by-team look at players facing important offseasons.

It could be that a player is recovering from an injury or perhaps coming off a so-so season. In other cases, the player might be stepping into big shoes or is a prime candidate to fill a position of need next season.

The common denominator is that all of the players we highlight need to have big offseasons. We’ll follow up our blog posts each day with a video that expands on other players.

Up first are the 2011 national champions – the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Spotlight: Quarterback AJ McCarron, 6-4, 205, rising junior

2011 summary: After waging a close battle with Phillip Sims for the starting job in the preseason, McCarron separated himself the first couple games of the season and started all 13 games. McCarron finished with 2,634 passing yards, 16 touchdown passes and five interceptions. He completed 66.8 percent of his passes, which ranked him first in the SEC.

The skinny: The key for McCarron is picking up where he left off in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game. The Alabama offensive staff showed a lot of faith in McCarron and had him come out throwing in that game to keep LSU’s defense off-balance. He responded with a 23-of-34 night for 234 yards and didn’t turn the ball over en route to earning Offensive MVP honors. McCarron will be an even bigger part of Alabama’s offense next season, and with a new offensive coordinator in place, will need to have his best offseason yet. From a pure talent standpoint, he’s the most gifted quarterback Alabama has had under Nick Saban. McCarron can make all of the throws, and he proved this season that he can also take care of the ball. His next step is becoming even more of a leader and making this his team. Trent Richardson is gone, and there will be a lot of new faces at receiver. The Crimson Tide will ask McCarron to do more than he did a year ago, and judging by the way he played in his last game, he’s up to the task.