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September 29, 2009

Column: Yes, McElroy's worthy

The ribbing started Sunday night, when a few of the guys were standing around a grill.

It probably went something like this: Hey Mr. Heisman, how do you want your meat cooked? What about your drink, small, regular or trophy-sized? Come on, strike the pose for us, just once.

"It's in good fun, he won't let it get to his head," one of the roasters, University of Alabama sophomore center William Vlachos said about junior quarterback Greg McElroy. "The only thing he's worried about is the game this week."

Ok, before Crimson Tide sports information cranks up a legitimate Heisman Trophy campaign or this topic goes any further, here's the disclaimer: It's only been four games. Nobody is a legitimate candidate for college football's biggest award after the first month unless he's already won it (Florida's Tim Tebow) or was runner-up (Texas' Colt McCoy).

McElroy? Until very recently a lot of people were mixing up his name with offensive coordinator Jim McElwain's.

"Yeah, it happens quick, but it comes with the territory," McElroy said. "We play like a good football team and we have a lot of confidence in ourselves, I have a lot of confidence in my teammates. But it does happen quick and you have to be prepared for it."

Granted, the Heisman has essentially become a popularity contest almost exclusively for quarterbacks, although a running back can still win every once in a while, yet the list of names being mentioned on the so-called "watch" lists causes one to really pause.

Cal running back Jahvid Best: The junior was held to just 55 yards on 16 carries by Oregon on Saturday.

Miami quarterback Jacory Harris: Really? Last week the sophomore completed just 9 of 25 passes for 150 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and a lost fumble against the same Virginia Tech defense Alabama beat.

Houston quarterback Case Keenum, Norte Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen, Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike and BYU quarterback Max Hall: No disrespect, but one would be hard pressed to consider them front-runners, even with Keenum's impressive game-winning drive against Texas Tech last week.

In comparison, McElroy's completed 63 of 93 passes (67.7 percent) for 938 yards and seven touchdowns while guiding the nation's No. 8 offense, which isn't pass-happy. He's already set the school record for consecutive completions (and is four shy of equaling it Saturday at Kentucky), and tied the mark for highest completion percentage with a minimum of 10 completions, going 13-for-15 (86.7 percent) against North Texas.

Since halftime of his first start at the Georgia Dome, where he had his lone pickoff 81 attempts ago, McElroy's 57-of-75 for 844 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions. That computes to a 76.0 completion percentage, a 205.81 collegiate passer rating and a 145.64 NFL passer rating over 14 quarters (in the NFL, 158.3 in considered a perfect game).

Consequently, his overall 175.15 passer-efficiency rating is third nationally, barely behind Hawaii's Greg Alexander (178.76) and Boise State's Kellen Moore (177.51).

"Really, that's the best compliment you can give me, to call me an efficient passer," McElroy said.

It's even more impressive when you consider that McElroy calls two plays in the huddle, and made numerous pre-snap changes like a proven veteran against Arkansas last Saturday.

"Just depending on the situation," he said. "Sometimes (with) down and distance we have a lot of run checks, we have lot of run-to-pass checks, pass-to-run checks, just things like that. It's based on certain looks, we say, 'Ok, kill it, kill it,' and we go to the next play."

If he stays healthy, at his current pace McElroy will finish the regular season with 2,814 passing yards, just 28 short of John Parker Wilson's single-season record (2,846 set in 2007), with a potential SEC Championship Game and/or bowl to go.

That wouldn't make him a serious contender. What will is if Alabama keeps winning and, dare we say, manages to beat Tebow and Florida for the conference title.

However, it's four games, one-third of the season, a prolific start worthy of someone wearing No. 12. It means McElroy's name can join the early Heisman conversation, but that's as far as it goes for a while.

"Alabama has had 12 national championships and no Heisman Trophy winners," McElroy said. "That's the mindset coming in here. This is a team game, and we're going to win as a team."


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