Wilson pursues balance as QB
Consistency, success remain elusive for Alabama leader
By Josh Cooper
TUSCALOOSA — With time running out in the half, Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson is at ease.
During those moments, the Crimson Tide uses its hurry-up offense and, according to wide receiver DJ Hall, Wilson is comfortable with the tempo and the pressure.
“That’s such a quick, fast-paced, powerful offense that I think he gets in a little bit of a rhythm,” Hall said. “He doesn’t have a lot of time to think. He just kind of reacts because guys get open quicker.”
Wilson led Alabama to a game-tying drive against Georgia at the end of the fourth quarter last weekend, and executed an eventual game-winning drive against Arkansas the week before.
The Crimson Tide also has scored with time running out in the first halves of the Vanderbilt and Western Carolina games.
In Alabama’s final drive against Arkansas, Wilson hit his wide receivers on a variety of slants to the middle of the field and quick outs to the sidelines. He was 7-of-9 passing for 56 yards during the series.
Against Georgia, Wilson was 2-of-3 for 51 yards and ran for the touchdown that tied the game at 20 with 1:09 left in regulation.
As No. 22 Alabama (3-1) prepares to face Florida State (2-1) on Saturday, Wilson is struggling to string together those successful moments.
Wilson has followed every solid game with a disappointing one this season. He torched Western Carolina for 189 yards in essentially one half of the first game of the season, then was 14-of-28 for 150 yards at Vanderbilt the following week.
Wilson set career highs for yards (327) and touchdown passes (four) against Arkansas, then was 17-of-35 for 185 yards against Georgia.
“I think what John Parker needs to do is just settle down. Take what the defense gives and make good decisions,” Tide coach Nick Saban said. “I think sometimes he puts too much pressure on himself, which can get him out of sync a little bit.”
Wilson has dealt with change on several football fronts this season.
Former coach Mike Shula and Wilson were close.
Shula, a former quarterbacks coach in the NFL and former Tide quarterback, mentored Wilson. With Shula gone, Wilson has learned a new offense with a new quarterbacks coach in Major Applewhite.
On Tuesday, as reporters asked him questions about his play during the 2007 season, Wilson answered candidly and at times with more emotion than usual.
“If we don’t go out and perform every week, we’re pissed off like everybody else,” Wilson said, his voice rising. “It’s not just coach Saban or the fans. We get upset, too. That’s what keeps us going. That’s what makes us want to practice.”
When he needs some kind of encouragement, he calls him family who gives him the tough-love approach.
“They keep my head on straight,” Wilson said. “They’ll tell me like it is, and they won’t beat around the bush. I lean on them.”
Wilson said that in order to get better every week, he competes in practice as if every play is a make-or-break, end-of-game situation. With the two-minute drill such a pressure-packed offense, maybe that is the secret.
“You’ve got to approach every practice like it’s going to win the game, every rep and every thing we do,” Wilson said. “When we get everybody doing that on every play in every practice, we’re going to be where we want to be.”
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