Kicking it with Alabama's Greg McElroy

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

The race is on for Alabama's starting quarterback job.

Coach Nick Saban says the Crimson Tide might have an answer after spring practice ends, but there's also no rush to identify a starter during the spring. The competition could easily spill over into preseason practice.

Junior Greg McElroy will battle redshirt freshman Star Jackson for the job. Neither has any meaningful SEC experience. McElroy has played only sparingly the last two years, while Jackson was redshirted a year ago.

McElroy, whose father, Greg McElroy Sr., is the Dallas Cowboys' executive vice president for sales and marketing, is no stranger to big-time football. He replaced Chase Daniel as the quarterback at Southlake Carroll High School in Texas and set a state record with 56 touchdowns.

After watching from the shadows the last few years, he gets his first real chance to show what he can do on the college stage. We caught up with McElroy for some of his thoughts on what will surely be one of the most watched battles on the Alabama practice field this spring:

How intense was the offseason program?

Greg McElroy: It's been tough, but it's supposed to be tough. I think the coaches are pleased, and the players are pleased with the way we've worked going into spring ball.

How different does it feel knowing that for the first time you have a legitimate chance to earn the starting job?

GM: It's obviously been a completely different approach for me. The last couple of years, I knew I was competing amongst myself, but not so much for a starting job. I learned a lot from John Parker (Wilson), and I'm looking forward to this opportunity. I've prepared myself accordingly and have put myself in a good position to be the starting quarterback here.

What's paramount for you if you're going to win the job?

GM: Showing that I can manage this offense. John Parker and I have pretty comparable styles. We're close in size, and I'm a little bit taller than him. The way we play the game is similar. I'm a little bit more of an intellectual quarterback as opposed to a gun-slinger. I take a lot of pride in my preparation, and the way I try to beat people is with my intelligence. So far it's allowed me to do some good things when I've gotten an opportunity to play. Hopefully, it will continue to do that.

Having been around the program for a while now, does that give you an advantage as far as knowing the offense?

GM: Coach (Jim) McElwain is my third offensive coordinator since I've been on campus. I'm used to during this time of year putting in a brand new offense and learning things day to day. But now that I've had a year under my belt with Coach McElwain, I feel much more prepared and that I know the offense as well as anybody. The way I study and the way I work and the way I understand -- not just my responsibilities in the offense, but every single person's responsibilities -- I take pride in knowing all those things. I think I understand exactly what Coach McElwain wants his quarterback to do, and that gives me a big heads up, not necessarily on my competition, but on what I've been used to the last couple of years.

Alabama leaned so heavily on its offensive line last year. With so many of those guys gone, does that change things for this offense?

GM: Losing guys like Andre (Smith), Antoine (Caldwell) and Marlon (Davis) will be difficult. But like Coach McElwain says, we have great players leaving, but we have good players returning who are more than capable. This offense may take on a little different mentality, and this offense may have a little different identity. But we're still going to be a tough, physical and ball-control offense. That's not going to change as long as Coach Saban and Coach McElwain are here. We're going to do what we want to do. We might not have the brute strength of a first-round pick like Andre Smith at left tackle. We might not have a three-year starter at center coming back, but we have very capable guys coming back and lot of confidence that we're going to be able to execute.

When all else fails, do you just throw it up for Julio Jones?

GM: I can tell you that having him on our side makes it a lot easier for any quarterback.

What did you think the first time you saw Jones play in person and how difficult he is to handle one-on-one?

GM: With my dad's position, I've been around professional football players my entire life. Just looking at Julio, I didn't get that jaw-dropping feeling. But when you see him play the game, with the tenacity and toughness that he plays with every time he's out there, he's just a phenomenal talent. He's a tremendous leader, works hard and is one of those guys you want on your side.

Are you and Star different types of quarterbacks?

GM: Star is obviously capable of running the ball when he has to, but I think our styles are sort of similar. He's a pass-first quarterback, and I'm a pass-first quarterback. We're both smart guys and understand what Coach Saban and Coach McElwain want us to do with the offense. Whoever runs the offense the best is going to be the quarterback.

How difficult is it walking that fine line between making a play and not forcing the issue, especially when you're trying to win a job?

GM: The more you play, the more comfortable you become in calling the shots out there. John Parker came in with the approach last year that he understood that he didn't have to carry the team on his shoulders. He knew he had great players around him and could control the ball and minimize his mistakes. Although it might be difficult and you're always looking for the big play, in most cases it's best to take what the defense gives you. Coach McElwain always says, 'Take what the defense gives you and eventually they'll give you the game.'