NEW ORLEANS -- Experience is a nice asset for a college football quarterback, but it hasn't been a requirement for outgoing Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain.
In four seasons guiding the Crimson Tide offense, McElwain was dealt a first-year starting quarterback in 2009 with Greg McElroy and again this season with AJ McCarron. In each instance, Alabama reached the BCS title game.
"I think the great thing about working with first-year quarterbacks is that I don't have a couple of years to screw them up," a smiling McElwain said Thursday. "They have both done a pretty good job of taking what the defense has given them. I think AJ has done a good job as an understudy, and I think one of the great things there that you kind of lose focus on is that he had an opportunity to learn from Greg how to prepare.
"Greg was a great study for AJ, and I'm really proud about the way that he's progressed."
McCarron, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound redshirt sophomore from Mobile, has completed 196 of 294 passes (66.7 percent) for 2,216 yards with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. He had 152 attempts without an interception at one point and ended the regular season ranked 20th nationally and second in the Southeastern Conference in efficiency with a 149.8 rating.
Alabama has a 47-6 record with McElwain calling the plays, but he will leave after Monday night's game against LSU to take over the Colorado State program.
Stealing the show
McCarron was overshadowed by McElroy on Thursday because of an interview McElroy gave a Birmingham radio station Wednesday about the chaotic New York Jets locker room. McElroy was a rookie this season for the Jets, who had Super Bowl aspirations but wound up 8-8.
"It was definitely not a fun place to be, I can assure you," McElroy told the station. "It's the first time I've ever been around extremely selfish individuals. I think that may be the nature of the NFL, but there were people within our locker room who didn't care whether we won or lost."
McElroy's remarks were discussed on national television and radio shows Thursday, and they elicited responses from other players. Erik Ainge, a former reserve Jets quarterback from Tennessee, posted on Twitter, "Someone tell McElroy to keep his mouth shut."
From across the pond
Monday's game obviously is a big media draw, and not just for reporters from the United States. A reporter from Europe asked McElwain, "How come you Americans are all so passionate about American college football?"
"That's a great question," McElwain responded. "I think one of the things is probably the physical nature, you know, and it kind of goes back to the gladiator days maybe a little bit. It probably has more to do with the fact that it's ours. It's something that kind of has grown up here and our culture has grown up with it.
"And the passionate fans, especially in the league we're in, are unlike anywhere else."
BCS odds and ends
The Tide practiced for two hours in full pads at the Superdome on Thursday afternoon, which was their first in New Orleans. ... Alabama leads the series with LSU 45-25-5, and the teams are meeting for a second time in New Orleans, having tied at 7 there in 1921. ... The last time these two played at a neutral site was 1958, when LSU won 13-3 in Mobile. ... The Tigers are 4-0 in BCS bowl games and have scored in 15 of the 16 quarters.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...