Alabama Crimson Tide: Jay Barker

McCarron's legacy as winner will endure

December, 30, 2013
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AJ McCarron AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackAlabama quarterback AJ McCarron looks to put a bow on his career with win No. 37.
After all the big moments, big throws and, most importantly, big wins, AJ McCarron has one final game in what has been a record-setting Alabama career.

It’s not the way he hoped to go out or the way he expected to go out.

One of college football’s most accomplished winners, McCarron had his sights set on a third straight national championship. Instead, Alabama will face Oklahoma in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Thursday.

As consolation prizes go, it’s not a shabby one. But McCarron is accustomed to playing for the top prize only. In fact, this will be the first time as Alabama’s starting quarterback that his season hasn't ended in the national championship game.

It will be odd, for sure, but his legacy is untouchable, and according to those who came before him, he has very few peers in a renowned Alabama quarterback fraternity that includes the likes of Joe Namath, Ken Stabler and Bart Starr.

“I don’t think there are many quarterbacks in college football history, much less at Alabama, who have the resume AJ has,” said Jay Barker, who quarterbacked the Crimson Tide to the 1992 national championship.

“There have been other quarterbacks at Alabama who've been a part of back-to-back championships, but I don’t know if they've contributed as much as AJ has. He’s been a leader. He’s delivered in pressure situations. He’s played through injuries. I think you have to put him at the very top.”

[+] EnlargeAJ McCarron
AP Photo/David J. PhillipAJ McCarron will be remembered as a tough competitor who always came up big in big games.
McCarron owns virtually every career passing record at Alabama, at least the major ones. And in most cases, it’s not even close.

He’d already thrown more career touchdown passes than anybody at Alabama coming into this season. He heads into the Sugar Bowl with 75. Second place on that list is John Parker Wilson with 47.

McCarron also holds the school record for career passing yards (8,632), total offense (8,625 yards) and career completions (667).

In his last two seasons, he has thrown 56 touchdown passes and just eight interceptions. He led the nation in passing efficiency a year ago and is eighth nationally this season.

In truth, he has put up the kind of numbers that might not be touched at Alabama for a long time. But the numbers that mean the most to McCarron are 36-3, his record as the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback. The 36 wins are the most in school history and third most in SEC history.

“What he’s been able to accomplish there is amazing,” said Greg McElroy, who quarterbacked Alabama to the 2009 national championship. “It’s been fun to watch. One thing I can say is that it’s tough playing quarterback at Alabama, especially when you consider that AJ grew up in that state. The pressure can be overwhelming at times, but the level of consistency that he’s sustained has been nothing short of spectacular.”

His penchant for performing on the biggest stages has set him apart, whether it was his clutch drive in the final minutes at LSU last season, his four touchdown passes in the BCS National Championship last season or his Offensive MVP performance in the BCS National Championship two years ago.

“Everybody talks about him being a game manager, but that’s a part of that position. You have to be a good game manager if you’re going to be a good quarterback,” Barker said. “What I look at is AJ in big games and in big moments. He always seems to deliver in those moments.

“I know it’s not a fair comparison, although it’s a flattering one. But AJ reminds me of Tom Brady in the way he thrives under pressure and makes the plays that have to be made. There are a lot of quarterbacks who have good stats. But what separates the men from the boys at the quarterback position is being able to handle the biggest of moments.

“Those are the ones who are special, and AJ is in that class.”

Even though there’s not a national championship at stake in New Orleans, McCarron has made it clear to anybody who will listen that the Tide will be ready. The last time Alabama lost two consecutive games was the end of the 2008 season when the Crimson Tide fell to Florida in the SEC championship game and were then beaten handily by Utah in the Sugar Bowl.

“We slipped up one time. That’s football,” McCarron said of the bitter loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl. “You've got to let it go. It’s the next game. I don’t want to come out and just play a game and not win it. … I don’t really care what I’m playing. I want to win.”

And that’s precisely the way he’ll be remembered -- as a winner.

“Coach [Gene] Stallings used to always say, ‘Don’t confuse activities with accomplishments,’” Barker said. “In other words, if you’re not winning, who cares if you’re throwing for 300 yards and four touchdowns?

“Ask Johnny Manziel or any other quarterback who’s putting up big numbers if they’d rather have those stats or have some championships. They’d rather have the titles.

“Your job as a quarterback is to deliver the win, and that’s what AJ was so good at.”

SEC Week 4: Did You Know?

September, 20, 2013
9/20/13
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There aren't quite as many marquee games this weekend around the SEC, but we still have a couple of divisional rivalry games -- namely Tennessee-Florida and Auburn-LSU -- to look forward to, plus a couple of intriguing nonconference matchups. Let's take a look at some statistical notes from around the league with an assist from ESPN's Stats and Information group.
  • LSU's Zach Mettenberger was hardly a star-caliber quarterback last season, posting the third-lowest Total QBR (39.3) of all qualified quarterbacks in the SEC (50 is average on the 1-100 QBR scale). He's been anything but a failure through three games of his senior season, notching the biggest increase for any qualified FBS quarterback in the last two seasons. His 52.3-point increase this season gives him a 91.6 Total QBR that ranks eighth nationally. Missouri's James Franklin has posted the third-biggest increase, jumping 45.4 points to 84.2 (20th nationally).
  • Conversely, some of Florida's offensive woes can be attributed to quarterback Jeff Driskel, whose Total QBR inside an opponent's 20 (1.5) is the second lowest in the nation among quarterbacks with at least 10 action plays. Driskel is one of five qualified quarterbacks with more interceptions (two) than touchdowns (one) inside the red zone. Florida's three turnovers against Miami were its most red zone turnovers in a game in the last 10 seasons. The Gators have already matched or exceeded their total of red zone turnovers from each of the past three seasons.
  • It's no secret that Auburn coach Gus Malzahn wants his hurry-up, no-huddle offense to operate at an accelerated pace. The Tigers have already improved substantially over their snail's pace from a season ago, when they were the third-slowest offense in the nation with a play every 30 seconds. This season, Auburn is running a play every 23 seconds, which is 1 second faster than the FBS average. The Tigers are averaging 440.3 yards per game (135.3 more than last year, when they were last in the SEC), converting 42 percent on third down (11 percent better than last year, when they were last in the league) and scoring touchdowns on 24 percent of their drives (up 8 percent from last year's SEC-low percentage).
  • Despite last week's blowout loss at Oregon, Tennessee has enjoyed some success moving the ball on the ground. The Volunteers have gained 384 of their 733 rushing yards before contact and are averaging 2.8 yards before contact per carry. In Florida, the Vols face their toughest run defense test yet, however. The Gators have allowed 7 rushing yards before contact on 44 carries through two games.
  • Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel's 562 yards of total offense last week against Alabama rank second in school and SEC history, trailing only his 576-yard performance last season against Louisiana Tech. Manziel is responsible for the top three total-offense games in league history.
  • Speaking of Manziel, last week's shootout against Alabama will certainly not be the last time the Aggies play in a high-scoring game. The next one could come this weekend when SMU visits College Station. SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert is third nationally in total offense (393.5 ypg), two slots ahead of Manziel (379).
  • A week after entering the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2009, Ole Miss jumped from No. 25 to No. 21 after last weekend's win at Texas. The Rebels, who are idle this week, are 3-0 for the first time since 1989 with a visit to No. 1 Alabama coming next week.
  • Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is one touchdown pass away from becoming the second quarterback in SEC history to toss 100 in his college career. Murray is 15 away from Danny Wuerffel's career record of 114. He should catch up to former Georgia star David Greene's SEC passing yardage record of 11,528 yards soon, as well. Murray is 805 yards behind Greene with 10,723 in his career.
  • Both of this weekend's marquee SEC games rank among the top 10 closest head-to-head SEC series since 2000 (that have been played at least 10 times). The average margin of victory in Auburn-LSU in that time period is 12.38 points, with seven of those games being decided by nine points or less. Florida has held the advantage in recent years against Tennessee with eight straight wins, but the average margin of victory in that series since 2000 is just 12.54 points.
  • Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron is approaching former Crimson Tide star Jay Barker's SEC career winning percentage record. Barker went 35-2-1 (93.4 percent) between 1991-94. McCarron can improve to 28-2 (93.3) if the Crimson Tide defeats Colorado State this weekend.
  • Quick, name the two SEC defenses that have allowed the fewest yards per game thus far. If you guessed Florida, you'd be correct. The Gators are third nationally with 208.5 yards allowed per game. The other team might be more of a surprise. Entering Saturday's game at Rutgers, Arkansas ranks sixth nationally by allowing 253 ypg.
  • Four players across the country have notched an FBS-high 4.5 sacks thus far. Two of them are from the SEC: Arkansas' Chris Smith and Kentucky's Za'Darius Smith, whose team is off this weekend.

Countdown to kickoff: 35

July, 28, 2012
7/28/12
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[+] EnlargeAJ McCarron
Marvin Gentry/US PresswireAJ McCarron (above) is second in Alabama history in QB winning percentage, second only to Jay Barker.
From now until kickoff in Arlington, Texas, we'll be counting down the days before Alabama and Michigan get the season started. Today, we move to No. 35 and what it means to UA football. See all the previous editions here.

At the quarterback position, you're judged on one statistic. It's not touchdowns, interceptions or yards thrown. It's not completion percentage or the calculated quarterback efficiency. At the end of the day, a quarterback is judged on wins and losses.

That's why Jay Barker must be included in the discussion of the best quarterbacks to ever play at the University of Alabama. The three-year starter in the early 90s won a school-record 35 games in his career. He lost two games over that time and finished with one tie. For those keeping score, that's a 93.4 winning percentage.

Like AJ McCarron, Barker led the Crimson Tide to a national championship in 1992 in his first year starting at quarterback. The Tide went 13-0 that year and beat the Miami Hurricanes in the Sugar Bowl to finish No. 1 overall. Two years later, in 1994, Barker would lead Alabama back to the SEC Championship game. He earned All-American honors that season, throwing for just under 2,000 yards while completing 61 percent of his passes.

Here's how Barker stacks up against the rest of the quarterbacks in Alabama history:

Career attempts
1. John Parker Wilson: 1,175
2. Brodie Croyle: 869
3. Andrew Zow: 852
4. Jay Barker: 706
5. Freddie Kitchens: 680

(Read full post)

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