There will be no quarterback battle at Alabama this season.
Some eight months after he lost out on the Crimson Tide's starting quarterback job to AJ McCarron, sophomore Phillip Sims will transfer out of the program, the university announced Friday. Sims played in eight games in 2011, completing 18 of 28 passes for 163 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
“This was a very difficult decision because I've had a great experience at the University of Alabama and I'm thankful for the opportunity this program provided me,” Sims said in a statement. “I wouldn't change anything about my decision to come to Alabama and this has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.
"The reason for me leaving is nothing more than a personal matter. I just need to be closer to home to support my family at this time and that needs to be my priority right now. I would still like to continue my football career, and hopefully I can do that and also be there for my family."
No transfer destination for the Chesapeake, Va. product has been announced, but speculation will likely center on his home-state Virginia Cavaliers. The Richmond Times-Dispatch has reported that Sims will seek a waiver from the NCAA allowing him to be immediately eligible due to "family circumstances."
“Phillip has been a great representative of our program and did a great job for us in his two years here,” Nick Saban said in the statement. “We are sorry to see him leave, but we certainly understand the situation, and everyone here wishes him the best of luck.”
Though McCarron is still only a junior, Sims' departure could be a blow to the Tide's chances of claiming a third national title under Saban if McCarron is injured this year or next. A former blue-chip recruit sought by many of the nation's top schools, Sims pushed the 2011 battle against the more experienced McCarron all the way into the first weeks of the season, with the two splitting time nearly equally in the season opener against Kent State.
But with McCarron pulling away to become the established starter by midseason, it's not a surprise Sims would look for more playing time elsewhere, even after another productive spring in Tuscaloosa capped by a 9-for-12, 135-yard, two-touchdown performance in the "A-Day" game. His departure leaves rising redshirt freshman Phillip Ely as the clearcut No. 2 quarterback, despite Ely's lack of game experience and -- by Alabama's colossally high standards -- low-key recruiting profile.
As long as McCarron is healthy, Sims's decision will be a footnote to the Tide's 2012 and (probably) 2013 seasons. But if not, it could prove to be much, much more fateful than that.
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