AJ McCarron says he's known Nick Saban to 'handcuff' offensive coordinators
Did Nick Saban want Alabama to run a conservative game plan against Ole Miss?
During his weekly radio segment with Tuscaloosa's TIDE 99.1, former Alabama QB AJ McCarron said he's known the Alabama coach to "handcuff" his offensive coordinators.
McCarron said he felt that Alabama's Heisman candidate receiver, Amari Cooper, was targeted too frequently in the loss to Ole Miss. Cooper had nine catches. Alabama's second-leading receiver, TE O.J. Howard, had three.
Alabama ran the ball 44 times and threw it 31 times. Was offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin's playcalling influenced by Saban?
"I don't know if that's Lane doing that or if Coach Saban is kind of putting the handcuffs on Lane like I've known Coach to do in the past on his offensive coordinator, and we're going to be very bland and run this play and do this and we'll throw it on third down if we have to," McCarron said via AL.com. "It's going to be interesting to see how they bounce back against Arkansas this week and what kind of offense comes out this week."
(Saban responded to McCarron's comments on Wednesday.)
After Alabama's 42-21 win over Florida, Saban told reporters that he's been "begging" offensive coordinators to open up the offense. While doing so, he specifically mentioned the Tide having good perimeter offensive players and that he felt the offense was doing a good job of taking advantage of them. Given how good Cooper has been, you can see how utilizing his skill set as much as possible would fit into that.
Cooper has 52 catches for 746 yards and five touchdowns this season. That's more catches, yards and touchdowns than he had the entire 2013 season when McCarron was at QB.
"I understand Coop is an unbelievable player," McCarron said. "He was that for us when I was there, but when you target somebody so much ... I think that was one of the best things we did while I was there. We spread the ball around to everybody. I mean, I think in numerous games ... where we had almost everybody on offense catch the ball that was eligible to catch the ball. Teams could never really pinpoint and play their defenses to cover Coop, and I think that's one of the things they're struggling with right now."
In 2013, four Alabama players had 30-plus catches. This season, Alabama's second-leading receiver in terms of receptions is DeAndrew White. He has 12 this season and is on pace for 29 grabs. Cooper's pace would net him 125 receptions.
McCarron also said the team is lacking leaders and has a hard time bouncing back from tough plays. While McCarron would have a great familiarity with the players on the team, it's worth noting that the loss to Ole Miss was the first time Alabama has faced any sort of adversity this season, unless being tied at 17-17 with West Virginia in the second quarter or 21-21 with Florida at halftime counts.
(It's also worth noting that former Alabama players mentioned selfishness and a lack of discipline in regard to last year's team finishing the season with two losses.)
"I think one of the things that this team is lacking that hurts them the most is not having the true leaders like we had last year and guys that, when things go bad [say], 'Hey, let's calm everybody down, pick it back up and go back to work and get back on the right track,'" McCarron said. "I feel like when things go bad, this team struggles a little with bouncing back and making good plays."
For more Alabama news, visit TideSports.com.
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Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter!