The Alabama Crimson Tide have made a name for themselves over the last five years based on a solid running game and relentless defense. Next season, that philosophy may see a noticeable change.
Yes, even with the departure of star running back and likely first-round pick Eddie Lacy, the Tide will be fully loaded at running back. Stud ball-carrier T.J. Yeldon will be back along with Jalston Fowler, Dee Hart, Kenyan Drake. A slew of top recruits in Derrick Henry, Tyren Jones and Altee Tenpenny will be joining them.
But the passing game is where Alabama might be its strongest offensively.
For one thing, the Tide does not lose any wide receivers from its 2012 BCS Championship squad. Freshman sensation Amari Cooper will be leading the way. Kevin Norwood, Kenny Bell, Christion Jones and DeAndrew White will be there as well.
Most importantly, this possible shift will be because of the impressive success of quarterback AJ McCarron. His accomplishments are quickly making him an Alabama legend.
For starters, McCarron is 25-2 as a starter, winning BCS titles in both of his seasons as the Alabama starter. Obviously, he is the only quarterback in the nation right now that can boast this.
Statistically, McCarron has completed 67 percent of his passes as a starter for 5,567 yards with 46 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. After finishing 25th nationally in quarterback rating in 2011, he led the nation in that category this past season with a rating of 175.28.
He's kind of clutch, too. In national title games, McCarron is now 43-62 for 498 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
These numbers do not exactly match up with McCarron's reputation for being a "game manager". If he is a game manager, Alabama will likely be looking for another one after he runs out of eligibility at the end of the 2013 season.
One of the reasons that the Tide has been so impressive on the ground lately has been the offensive line. The Alabama front has made its reputation by run blocking.
Unfortunately, Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker will no longer be playing on Saturdays for Alabama. They will be replaced by newcomers like Leon Brown, Ryan Kelly and Chad Lindsay, among others.
If head coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier wish to change the direction of the Alabama offense, this may be the perfect time for them to do so.
As good as McCarron has been over the last two seasons, there is reason to believe that he has not yet reached his full potential.
He will start the 2013 season with more experience and more talent at the receiver positions than he has ever had before. With the stable of star running backs at his disposal, he will not have to be the sole provider for the Tide offense.
If the offensive line can keep McCarron protected, he will be poised to shatter the majority of Alabama passing records on the way to winning an unprecedented third national title in a row.
In reality, it is safe to assume that Saban will continue to run the ball with the same tenacity and consistency that he has throughout his coaching career.
Don't think, however, that he is unopposed to change.
In 2007, Alabama only ran the ball 18 more times than it threw it. Of course, some of that was out of necessity, but it proves that Saban is willing to back off of the run if it is the best thing for the team.
While Yeldon and his minions will continue to punish defenses in 2013, you can rest assured that AJ McCarron will be given every opportunity to improve upon his already exceptional collegiate career.
With the well-earned opportunity to be the star of the offense after taking a backseat to the ground game for two years, McCarron may well find himself on the Heisman Trophy short list next fall.
He may also leave the Capstone as Alabama's favorite son—ever.
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