Alabama Under Pressure?
If Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy is going to have success against Virginia Tech, he will probably have to work quickly and efficiently.
The Crimson Tide returned only two starting offensive linemen and McElroy, a fourth-year junior, is making his first career start. With No. 5 Alabama’s relative inexperience at both positions, the No. 7 Hokies will try to apply pressure and mix in plenty of disguised coverages to disrupt its offensive flow Saturday in Atlanta.
“If he’s not successful to start off, maybe he’ll start to question himself a little bit,” Torrian Gray, the Hokies’ defensive backs coach, said of the Crimson Tide’s quarterback. “Because he’s a first-time starter, we hope can capitalize on his inexperience. He may be a great player right off the bat, but a lot of times it takes those guys some experience.”
McElroy, who backed up Washington Redskins quarterback Chase Daniel at Southlake Carroll High School in Texas, has not made a start since his senior year of high school in 2005.
“I think our whole defense is excited about it,” linebacker Cody Grimm said of facing an inexperienced quarterback. “Not only is it the first game, but definitely with some younger guys up front who don’t have as much experience and a quarterback who hasn’t started before, it’s definitely a good opportunity for us to bring some blitzes.”
Such pressure exposed the Crimson Tide's weaknesses last season.
In a 31-17 loss to Utah in the Sugar Bowl, the Crimson Tide fell behind early and had to shift away from its run-first philosophy. Alabama started dropping back quarterback John Parker Wilson instead of working off a play-action passing game. That caused trouble. Wilson was sacked eight times. The Crimson Tide had only 208 yards of offense.
Alabama lost three starters from last year’s offensive line, including left tackle Andre Smith, the 2008 Outland Trophy winner, and standout center Antoine Caldwell.
McElroy, however, has a nice passing touch. In his limited appearances at Alabama, he has completed 16 of 20 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns. In Alabama’s intrasquad scrimmages, he has also thrown well. He completed 23 of 44 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns, with two interceptions, in an intrasquad scrimmage Aug. 22.
But McElroy has yet to perform on a stage like Saturday’s game.
“If we get them to throw the football, and hopefully rattle him a little bit, obviously that’s always big, I don’t care if you’re playing Alabama or North Carolina,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “I think going into an early game, a guy playing for the first time, that would obviously be big.”
Also, a hallmark of Foster’s defenses has been their ability to disguise coverages and confuse the opposition. In Virginia Tech’s 4-3 defense, the rover can shift into the secondary to essentially become a strong safety. The two-safety alignment masks the Hokies’ coverage.
“He just puts us in good situations as players,” Grimm said of Foster. “It’s not so much what we’re doing as players; he calls it at the right time. When you look at it from the quarterback position, it looks like we’re running one thing but it’s completely different. You have to thank Coach Foster for doing stuff like that that helps us have easy sacks.”
Posted by: hclark1 | September 4, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse
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