It seems a team not located in Miami is highly favored to capture a threepeat in 2014 as the preseason coaches poll names the two time defending champion Alabama Crimson Tide the nation’s number one team. Coming off a complete demolition of Notre Dame in this year’s BCS National Championship, Nick Saban’s squad will be back and perhaps better than ever.
Though they have lost nine starters, including first round picks cornerback Dee Milliner and offensive linemen Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker, Alabama is returning one of college football’s most experienced and decorated players ever, in AJ McCarron. The Heisman-less McCarron has led the Tide to two championships in his two years as a starter for a career record of 24-2.
Like Mario Chalmers of the Miami Heat, McCarron has lived in the shadows of his distinguished and celebrated teammates. McCarron, a quarterback, and Chalmers, a point guard, drive the motor behind their championship winning teams, but find themselves out of the limelight.
No matter how many times Chalmers sets up the offense, Dwayne Wade will always get the praise for the made three pointer. Regardless of how well McCarron reads the defense and calls an audible that results in an Trent Richardson touchdown, fans will only recognize Richardson’s skill as a rusher.
Chalmers probably will never have the chance to shine due to the cap-breaking talent on his team, however McCarron might be able to this season.
McCarron’s offenses in his first two seasons as a starter revolved around a primary running back, Trent Richardson in 2011 and Eddie Lacy in 2012. Since McCarron’s sophomore season, Richardson and Lacy had combined to rush for 3001 yards and 38 touchdowns. Both Richardson and Lacy were drafted after their breakout seasons in Tuscaloosa.
This season, Lacy’s former counterpart, sophomore T.J. Yeldon, a 1,000 yard rusher, will likely be McCarron’s primary back. Yeldon is more versatile as a receiver than Lacy, which will give McCarron more opportunities to throw the ball rather than hand it off.
As a senior quarterback with a versatile yet young backfield and experienced receivers, McCarron can finally put emphasis on his passing game. McCarron will be armed with his top two receivers from 2012, Amari Cooper and Kevin Norwood. This dynamic tandem led the national champions in yards, receptions, and touchdowns.
As a freshman, Cooper was the Tide’s lone 1000 yard receiver last season.
Alabama is also adding a highly touted recruiting class of receivers, including the nation’s second ranked tight end, O.J. Howard, as well as wide receiver Ruben Foster who ESPN ranks 25th overall.
With McCarron’s experience along with his stellar weapons on offense, he can make a strong case for the Heisman Trophy. Despite his storied career and the award’s infamy for being given mainly to quarterbacks, McCarron has never even been nominated for the prestigious award. However, this can be his year.
In an offseason of controversy surrounding the reigning Heisman winner as a freshman, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, McCarron may be the early favorite in his senior year. McCarron will face his Manning Quarterback Camp roommate and fellow preseason Heisman candidate in College Station on September 14 in a rematch of Alabama’s only loss of 2012.
Even with two championships, McCarron made the almost unprecedented decision to return to college for his senior year and bypass the NFL Draft. There is something that McCarron want that he does not already have.
A Heisman. A perfect season.
In recent years, the Alabama offense had been dominated by a premier running back. McCarron will have another talented back this season in Yeldon, however considering all of his other assets on offense, it may finally be McCarron’s time to get more publicity than his girlfriend, Katherine Webb.
There is no question that Alabama is the early favorite to finish 2013 where they started, at number one. The Tide will likely win the championship and complete the threepeat before the Heat do, which would make McCarron a Heisman away from matching, if not bettering, Tim Tebow’s illustrious college career.