-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)
A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims won’t be asked to do too much this season — only win a National Championship for the Alabama Crimson Tide.
No pressure fellas.
While it is true that Nick Saban will not ask too much of his first-year starter in an offense loaded with NFL linemen and tailbacks, the pressure of leading the nation’s No. 1 team onto the field is no less great. McCarron and Sims will be asked to lead Athlon’s preseason pick to win the BCS title, so all eyes in college football will be focused on the practice fields of Tuscaloosa for the next two weeks.
The two highly touted prospects took even snaps with the first-team offense in the spring and battled to an even draw. It doesn’t appear there has been much separation thus far in fall camp either. Fans, media and the Kent State head coach will probably not know which player to prepare for until the Tide offense trots out onto the field on September 3.
Meet the Candidates:
A.J. McCarron, 6-4, 205, SO
2010: 30-48, 389 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT
Phillip Sims, 6-2, 217, FR
2010: 11-20, 138 yards in spring ball
Blake Sims, 6-0, 212, FR
Both McCarron and Phillip Sims were Athlon Consensus 100 recruits, so both have the physical tools needed to succeed in the SEC. The big difference is obviously the experience level. McCarron has played very well in mop-up duty against the likes of San Jose State, Duke, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Michigan State and Georgia State.
Yes, those were all extremely lopsided affairs in which there was no pressure on McCarron’s shoulders. However, simply facing a couple of SEC defenses and Sparty can only help his development process. It also might give him the slight edge for that first offensive series against the Golden Flashes in two weeks. He was extremely efficient in his spot duty last fall and looks like the safer of the two players at this point.
Sims, on the other hand, has yet to take a collegiate snap but has all the makings of an elite signal caller. The record setting passer from Virginia — Sims was 48-4 with 10,725 yards and 119 touchdowns in his prep career — might have more raw talent than McCarron, and more importantly, might have more support from his teammates. Commanding a huddle of future NFL stars and collegiate All-Americans is no easy task, so any confidence his peers can provide can only help the transition into the starting lineup.
Athlon’s Prediction: A.J. McCarron
Both are saying all the right things about the “friendly” competition. The money seems like it should land on McCarron to at least start the season on the field. It is more than likely that both see significant time in what should be a one-sided affair in Week One. However, a trip to Happy Valley looms large in Week Two, and should McCarron struggle against what should be a dramatically improved Nittany Lion defense, Sims could take over for good. Don’t be shocked if Saban employs a two-quarterback system either.