Several different sources reported Saturday that Alabama backup QB Phillip Ely was considering transferring to another school, possibly USF. Ely came to Alabama as a 3-star player according to most recruiting sites, with Rivals having him at 20th best Pro-Style QB and Scout at 41st. Ely's accuracy and decision-making skills were evident in high school, but at 6-1/198 most scouts think he lacks the size and arm strength to be a legitimate NFL prospect.
While Phillip Sims' transfer last year was generally expected, and even encouraged by some Alabama fans (including me), Ely's possible transfer comes as a bit of a surprise. It's probably safe to assume that most of us thought Ely would spend another year splitting time with Blake Sims behind AJ McCarron and then have at least a shot at the starting job in the spring of 2014. He made the most of his appearances at QB for Alabama in 2012, going 3-4 for 42 yds and a TD, but Sims saw much more time on the field than Ely, who only played in 3 games this season and none of the last 6, including blowout wins over Western Carolina and Auburn.
While the decision isn't yet final, it certainly seems as though we've watched Phillip Ely play his last game as a member of the Alabama team. With that thought in mind, I thought it might be helpful to take a look at the possible QB depth chart for the 2013 season. I know that Coach Saban doesn't really approve of depth charts, but he doesn't know where I live, so here goes!
1. AJ MCCARRON
2. BLAKE SIMS
Most websites list Ely and Sims as co-backups, but a quick look at the stats will tell you that the Alabama offense relied on Sims exponentially more than Ely. Sims saw playing time in 8 games this season, going 5-10 for 77 yds passing and carrying the ball 30 times for 187 yds and 2 TD's (including this beauty).
The drawback with Sims is immediately obvious: His passing ability is an unknown quality at this point. Recruiting videos, A-Day, and late blowout game film are all well and good, but I think most of us would be extremely nervous if the responsibility to bring Alabama back in a game rested solely on Sims' shoulders. Perhaps only Oklahoma in 2012, with Landry Jones and Blake Bell, had a QB-backup tandem more dissimilar than McCarron and Sims. The change of pace can be a fantastic weapon on offense at times, but when it comes to playing an entire game against an SEC caliber defense, I can't feel bullish on Alabama's chances with Sims at the helm, at least not yet.
3. ALEC MORRIS
I debated on putting Bateman here, but eventually it came down to valuing a 3 star recruit with a year's experience in the Alabama system over a 4 star freshman.
Morris is a big guy at 6-4/235, and by all accounts, has a cannon where his arm is supposed to be. The coaching staff has been extremely positive about him, but chose to redshirt him this year in favor of Sims and Ely. In all probability, had Morris been able to enroll early, the competition between he and Ely over the spring and summer would have been significantly closer. This spring and summer he will have to battle against Cooper Bateman to move into Ely's position on the depth chart.
Scouts have criticized Alec's mobility, but when you can flip a 400 lb weight 8 times in 18 seconds, perhaps you could just stiff-arm anyone that comes near you.
4. COOPER BATEMAN
Bateman reminds me a lot of McCarron. Both were recruited as 4 star QB's with great arms and better than average mobility. Bateman is ranked #5 at his position, AJ was #7. McCarron came to Alabama at 6-4/189, Bateman at 6-3/202.
Cooper was a huge pickup for Alabama, and the fact that he enrolled early is a huge boost to the depth of the QB position for the Tide, something they sorely lacked in 2012. Having 3 QB's with significant time in the Alabama system behind AJ is a luxury the Tide would dearly love to have.
While there is a lot to be excited about with Bateman, it would be fantastic if Morris were good enough to allow Alabama to redshirt him this year, just like they were able to do with AJ in 2009.
5. LUKE DEL RIO
If Bateman reminds me of McCarron, then Del Rio reminds me of Greg McElroy. Much like Greg, Del Rio has an average arm, size, and athleticism, but an extremely high football IQ with several scouts raving about his keen football knowledge and work ethic. Also like Greg, Luke's father works in the NFL, obviously at a much higher level than Greg's dad, but they've both been around the pro aspect of the game their entire lives.
Del Rio turned down scholarship offers from Oklahoma State and Oregon State to walk on at Alabama, a decision that surprised a lot of folks, but should have won the hearts of most Alabama fans. Hopefully his decision will work out for him in some way, if not on the field, then perhaps on the sidelines with the best coach in football.
6. PARKER MCLEOD
The Ginger Avenger enrolled early along with Bateman and Del Rio, and it should be interesting to see who comes out ahead in the matchup between Del Rio and McLeod. McLeod has more of a prototypical QB frame and arm, but Del Rio might have the edge in accuracy and decision making.
Ideally, the hardest hit AJ takes next season will be from his own offensive line after winning his third consecutive BCS Title. With new faces at 3 positions along that offensive front, however, common sense says it might take a couple of games to get all the wrinkles ironed out. It's comforting to know that with or without Phillip Ely, Alabama will most likely find itself with significantly more depth at the QB position in 2013 than it did in 2012. Having three QB's with at least a year in the system and three more early enrollees behind them is something I'm sure the Alabama coaching staff will enjoy.