September 22, 2006

Wilson ready for first true test

It's not often that a team has full confidence in its new starting quarterback just three game into his career but the Crimson Tide are pretty close to it. Sophomore John Parker Wilson has thrown just one interception in his first 79 passing attempts this season and racked up 670 yards and four touchdowns while completing 59.5 percent of his passes.

"He's made good decisions, for the most parts," head coach Mike Shula said. "And the times that he hasn't he's understood why. He hasn't gotten rattled. He's come out and played the next series fairly well. I think that athletically, he can move around if he has to, and possibly make some plays there."

Wilson, though not the confident, flashy personality that his predecessor was, appears to have become the prototype quarterback for Shula's offense. His low-key, business-like approach to the passing game has created a balanced attack for the Tide and one which allows a variety of playmakers to get their hands on the ball.

"The more people you can spread the ball out to, the more effective your offense can be," Wilson said. "I was watching Tom Brady on Sunday and he throws the ball to everybody on the field."

"I don't really have one go-to guy that I always look to first. It would be easy to but we have so many guys we can go to. I don't have to look for one certain guy because I trust that everybody is going to be open. I have a pretty good selection"."

But after three games where Wilson and his offense developed under friendly lights at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the group must now try and take their first big step away from home testing their skills before a hostile Arkansas crowd that will be desperate for a victory.

"I got to see them first hand last year," Wilson said. "I know it is a very tough place. That is all the guys talk about, how loud it is going to be and how crazy their fans are. That is something I have to get ready for."

"We are not going to dwell on it," said offensive coordinator Dave Rader. "We are not going to do anything to put any emphasis on it because I really think that John Parker is a guy that plays on the field with his arm. You are not supposed to use personal references but the first time I played in Razorbacks Stadium was a big deal and I had a lot of fun there. I really don't think the crowd is going to be a major factor on his mind. I think he will handle it well."

Along with his coaches, Wilson's teammates have also expressed confidence in their young leader and trust him to make the right decisions even when conditions aren't perfect.

"We're very confident in him. He works hard out there on the practice field at trying to get his reads down and getting used to us and how we run our routes," said wide receiver Keith Brown. "We've got a lot of confidence in this guy in terms of how he understands his role on the team. It's going to be fun to watch him perform under pressure this week."

Wilson said he sees this weekend's game as Alabama's best opportunity yet to prove that it can be a contender in 2006.

"That is still a question to everyone out there "Is our offense any good?" It is the same situation as last year," Wilson said. "We are trying to prove we are and we can do that if we go out there and take care of business at Arkansas. Of course the week after that will be a very big game for us."

"I don't know if I have any concerns. I just need to go out there and protect the ball, not turn it over and play our game. We can't go out there and get into a game they want to play. We just have to play Alabama football."

As for his own career, Wilson knows that the Arkansas game will be a defining moment for him and his first real chance to let the nation see what he's made of.

"There's going to be a lot expected out of me but it's also a great chance for me to show what I can do. I'm ready."

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