McCarron’s absence symptom of Saban

It’s not like there aren’t plenty of questions for him to answer.

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron’s last football game was the BCS Championship Game where he was offensive MVP after leading the Crimson Tide to a victory over LSU. Since then, the redshirt junior completed a productive spring, working with a team that will likely be the national championship conversation yet again.

Not only that, McCarron’s backup, Phillip Sims, the guy who split time in the starting role at the beginning of last season, transferred to Virginia, leaving the most important offensive spot on the field solely in McCarron’s hands.

Yet, McCarron will not be one of the Tide players making the rounds at SEC Media Days next week.

It’s not like he’s shy.

In previous press conferences, McCarron has been thoughtful, articulate, poised, and on-message: all the things coach Nick Saban wants from his guys. McCarron even survived a near-fatal Jet Ski accident when he was a youngster and has a tattoo of a weeping, thorn-crowned Jesus on his chest. Who could be better for the hungry media?

There is nothing to indicate any problems coming out of Tuscaloosa. In fact, the most likely rationale for leaving McCarron at home has nothing at all to do with McCarron.

It’s Saban, who continues to look at the quarterback position no differently than he does the left offensive guard.

When asked recently about putting together a more pass-oriented offense in 2012, Saban shrugged as if it was the least important question in the world.

“You have to do on offense what you have the players to do,” said Saban during a Crimson Caravan appearance in April in Atlanta. “Now that we have a quarterback that is very capable – as long as he makes good decisions and judgments in how he distributes the ball and doesn’t turn it over – I like our young skilled players.”

That isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement, especially for a quarterback whose play in New Orleans sealed the Crimson Tide’s 14th national title. But it’s typical Saban.

About the nicest thing he ever said about Greg McElroy, the Jets quarterback who led Alabama to a championship in 2009, was, “Greg is getting better.”

“I also believe there are some young guys that can make some plays,” Saban continued in response to the quarterback question that never got answered. “I like our runners, too. I think the strength of the offense is the offensive line and the quarterback. So, hopefully they help those other guys look good.”

When he won his national championship at LSU in 2003, Saban didn’t sing praise and hallelujah to Matt Mauck, and he was even less committed to his quarterbacks the following year when Marcus Randall and JaMarcus Russell were battling it out.

Saban is simply not a quarterback-centered coach. He would much rather work with the cornerbacks and safeties, drill reads into the linebackers and motivate his defensive ends.

“You know, A.J. had a good spring,” said Saban, with all the enthusiasm of someone reviewing cucumber-flavored ice cream. “A.J. still has to stay within the structure of the offense in terms of taking what the defense gives. You can’t force plays. You have to be patient, and that is the key for him to be successful. He can make the throws. It’s just continuing to make the right ones.”

No one will know how McCarron has progressed until the first snap on Sept. 1 in Cowboy Stadium vs. Michigan. Nor will anyone know what he thinks about his team or his prospects until his head coach makes him available.

And, like the quarterback position itself, that doesn’t appear to be high on Saban’s priority list.