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QB quandary

3 signal callers vying for Alabama starting job in '99

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Posted: Sunday December 20, 1998 03:55 PM

 

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama (AP) -- After signing with Alabama as a can't-miss quarterback, Tyler Watts spent his first season signaling plays from the sideline to redshirt freshman Andrew Zow.

Surely, speculation said, if Zow is already the starting quarterback, he'll remain there. And rumors were rampant in Alabama football circles about a pending Watts transfer.

"Transfer? I don't want to transfer," Watts said. "I want to play here."

And what's more: Watts is ready to battle Zow and fellow freshman class member Luke Tucker for the starting job.

As the Tide prepared for the American General Music City Bowl, the three quarterbacks viewed practicing as a challenge to demonstrate they are capable of running the show.

"It's been a great opportunity for them," said quarterbacks coach Charlie Stubbs. "[Bowl preparations] given them the chance to work with the guys they'll be working with in spring. Sliding John David [Phillips] to receiver allows for even more reps for Tyler."

Even though Watts and Tucker haven't spent much time in the new spread offense, "they've grasped things," Stubbs said. "They're already further along than the poor guys were last spring. So next spring, we ought to be able to expand on this offense."

Most of Watts' offensive work came in the last half of the season, when Stubbs decided to allow him to split some work with Phillips in practice.

Tucker spent the fall with the scout team, learning 11 new offenses -- one per week -- to prep the defense for each opponent.

"I'd work the scout-team offense during the day and study our playbook at night," he said.

Watts, a highly touted recruit from Pelham, had a solid preseason, but Tide coaches designated Phillips, a fifth-year senior, as starting quarterback, with Zow as understudy. Watts was redshirted following concerns of wasting a season with a few plays. Later, Zow took over as starter.

Zow was 5-2 at starting quarterback and closed in on 2,000 passing yards, more than any other Tide freshman quarterback.

Still, Zow said he doesn't think anything is set in stone for next spring.

"I think it'll be wide open," he said. "It's anyone's job."

Watts admits Zow's arm might be stronger.

But, "I don't think arm strength's an issue," he said. "You don't have to throw through a brick wall to be successful."

 
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