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 AJ McCarron.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- What do you do for an encore when you've already won three national championships? How do you follow up a historical season where you write school records and lead the country in passing efficiency? How do you make a senior year special when the previous three have already yielded so much?
These are questions AJ McCarron has already pondered. If he hadn't, he wouldn't have decided to announce his intention to return to school for a final season way back in December. He was on his way to another title game and had the option to turn pro and test the NFL waters. Instead, he thought there was unfinished business to be attended to at Alabama.
"I feel like I can still grow," he said. "Hopefully be able to showcase my talents a little bit more next year. And just grow as a quarterback and a leader."
He said he considered the NFL but felt like it wasn't going anywhere. Also, by staying another season he could see his brother develop at tight end for Alabama. Corey, a rising junior, hasn't played in two seasons at UA but might have an opportunity in 2013 with both the tight end and H-back positions up in the air.
What isn't up in the air is AJ McCarron's legacy. After all, that's what he will be playing for in 2013. If he stays on track and doesn't miss any significant time, he very well could wind up the most decorated quarterback in school history. His name is already being mentioned as a Heisman Trophy contender, an award only one other Alabama player has won.
As he's told reporters, another season on campus also means another year to improve his draft stock. Winning games and setting records is one thing, but impressing NFL types is something different entirely. On that front, his resume isn't already complete. There's always more to prove when it comes to courting future employers.
With a much improved set of receivers, McCarron will have more weapons to throw the ball to this coming season. Amari Cooper and Kevin Norwood are just the tip of the iceberg. McCarron lacked a true downfield threat last season, but that won't be the case in 2013. Kenny Bell, DeAndrew White and Chris Black have all shown the speed to get behind the defense and make plays.
As former teammate Dee Milliner put it, Alabama's passing game could be downright scary. The former All-American cornerback said that with the receivers he'll have, McCarron could become a "unbelievable as a quarterback."
"Man, it’s going to be very interesting and very scary for opposing defenses," he said. "You’ve got a lot of guys that can go down the field, a vertical threat, and different guys that can go across the middle, just different guys that can do different things at all times."