Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Inside the Program: Nussmeier's attack
By Alex Scarborough
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is one to spread the credit around. Sure, his quarterback AJ McCarron is in the thick of the Heisman race, has thrown 18 touchdowns with no interceptions and faces the biggest game of the season against LSU on Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La., but it's not all about him.
Alabama's undefeated record and 40.6 points per game is a testament to the play of the team all the way around, not just the man under center.
"It's the body of work of everybody on the offense," Nussmeier told ESPN's Samantha Steele, crediting the offensive line, running backs and wide receivers.
If anything, it's been a team effort. McCarron just happens to be the face of it.
The junior quarterback from South Alabama has taken on a greater role on offense this season after leading the Tide to a national championship in his first year starting under center. Nussmeier, who is in his first season at Alabama, said McCarron came in this past offseason ready to work on the finer points of his game, things like footwork and selling the play-action pass better. It was music to the former pro quarterback's ears.
Coordinator and quarterback jelled quickly and McCarron's newfound attention to detail has paid off on the field. The same pundits and prognosticators who labeled McCarron a "game manager" are calling him something different this season. They're calling him one of the best quarterbacks in the country.
Not that UA coach Nick Saban is ready to abandon the title of "game manager" any time soon. To him, it's a compliment more than an insult.
"You can't be a good quarterback unless you're a good game manager," Saban said. "Because you've got the ball in your hands every time and you're making some kind of choice and decision of what to do with it, whether you hand it off, what play you hand it off on, where you throw it in the passing game. You've got to process a lot of information quickly and make quick decisions."
McCarron's quick thinking has led to runaway victories for the Tide all season. Alabama has averaged 26 points by halftime and simply run away with games. McCarron has had to attempt only 18 fourth-quarter passes this season because of the leads he's built heading into the final period.
"I don't think it's fair to AJ that because I said he's a really good game manager for us that it's like that means he doesn't do anything," Saban continued. "... That's the ultimate compliment, to me. To have the ability to make plays, but we've certainly been able to make a few with our quarterback this year, and I think it's going to be important that we continue to be able to do that as well."
Despite McCarron's big numbers this season, teams have continued to load the box to try to stop the run, something Alabama fully expects when it meets LSU this weekend. If Les Miles and defensive coordinator John Chavis bring eight men to the line and dare Alabama to throw, look for the Tide to take their shots downfield.
"I can't give you that," Nussmeier quipped with Steele when asked about taking advantage of potential single coverage.
But he would concede one thing: "You're looking to win any time you get one-on-ones."
And with a quarterback like McCarron, winning those battles has become routine.