Column: McCarron has reason to have swagger, national media should pay attention

By Aldo Amato

For the past five years, the main focus of Alabama’s offense has revolved around the running back position, and rightly so. A Heisman Trophy winner and a finalist in the past three years are not too shabby, and the future sure looks bright for this position.

But there is one person who the national media has slept on all season and who is not getting enough praise for his arm, accuracy and impeccable bow tie fashion: junior quarterback AJ McCarron.

McCarron has been nearly flawless through the Tide’s first five games this season, tossing 12 touchdowns with zero interceptions, and has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes. He is only eight touchdowns and 700 yards behind West Virginia quarterback and Heisman Trophy frontrunner Geno Smith.

Yet the two-time national championship player has not gained enough credit for carrying much of the Tide’s offense this season. Yes, junior Eddie Lacy and freshman phenom TJ Yeldon have been outstanding and exciting to watch in the ground game, and the defense has once again remained stout early on. However, we are witnessing something we have not seen since the Croyle-to-Prothro days: a legitimate and consistent air attack.

So, what has changed since last year that has the Mobile native all of a sudden looking like Peyton Manning? Most refer back to the BCS National Championship game in New Orleans, where McCarron picked apart a then highly-touted LSU secondary. Most viewed it as McCarron’s redemption game where he got his revenge and was fearless passing the ball.

Others may point to the fact that Trent Richardson is no longer hovering over McCarron’s shoulder, thus freeing up some reps. One could even say that new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has developed more plays for McCarron.

While most of those assertions are likely true, the main answer to McCarron’s recent success is quite simple. He literally came into this season with a ton of confidence and “swag” that has translated onto the field.

Take this summer’s Twitter spat with former LSU standout and Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu. While it is never the “Saban way” to go public with comments about an opponent, it was McCarron who showed poise when responding to Mathieu’s bait. Instead of dragging it out for a course of days, McCarron simply referred to facts while countering an aggressive “Honey Badger,” who made no effort to end the exchange.

In the end, it would be McCarron who would have the final word both on and off the field. There is a fine line between having swagger and acting irrational, and Mathieu chose the latter. McCarron, however, recognized that he can tread that line of having confidence and being grounded at the same time.

His swagger was on full display when the Tide opened against Michigan, and I’m not talking about all the great throws he made. It was before the game when he let the world know he had arrived.

Enter the bow tie.

McCarron chose to forego the plain suit-and-tie look he normally donned last season, instead opting for the “Gangam Style” look with shades and a bow tie. Without saying a word, McCarron’s confidence looked to be on another level. So far this season, McCarron has donned a different bow tie before most of the games.

Arrogance? I think not.

What separates his swagger from most in the Southeastern Conference is that it has given him a mental edge over his opponents this year. He has strayed away from becoming arrogant and reckless, instead translating his pre-game swagger and hype into touchdowns on the field.

A good leader must be able to make smart decisions and not be afraid to take risks. McCarron, this season, looks to have found that perfect balance.

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