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Chuck McGill: How first-time ‘Bama QBs have fared; Madison man in need of transplant has fitting finale in tennis

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There should be zero cases of the Mondays this week, friends. This is Monday of the first college football game week of the season, the last Monday in which all Football Bowl Subdivision teams will have that pristine 0-0 record.

What side of the ledger your team adds a “1” to on opening weekend will probably hinge upon quarterback play. It usually does, doesn’t it?

That’ll be a major component of what happens in Atlanta this Saturday, when West Virginia and Alabama meet at 3:30 p.m. (ABC) inside the 74,228-seat Georgia Dome.

Perhaps Monongah native and former WVU assistant Nick Saban will reveal Monday who will start for the Crimson Tide against the Mountaineers. It’ll either be Florida State transfer Jacob Coker or senior Blake Sims, and in all likelihood both signal callers will play.

It is, however, a question mark for Alabama.

During an appearance on Dave Weekley’s daily radio show “Hotline” last week, he asked me about ranking Alabama No. 6 on my Associated Press ballot, which is four spots lower than the Crimson Tide is ranked in the AP’s top 25 poll.

My explanation was simple: Florida State, Stanford, Ohio State, Auburn and Oregon — my preseason top five, in that order — returned established stars as the quarterback position. Alabama does not.

The Seminoles have Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, Stanford has team captain Kevin Hogan, Ohio State had — at the time the ballot was due Aug. 6 — a Heisman candidate in Braxton Miller, Auburn has Nick Marshall and Oregon has Marcus Mariota.

What Alabama has is unclear, except for the fact that Coker or Sims will be a first-time starter.

Coker is 21 for 41 with 295 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception in his collegiate career. Sims has done most of his damage as a runner. He is 23-for-39 passing with 244 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions, while also rushing for 355 yards on 67 carries and two more scores. He also has two career receptions for 18 yards.

Whoever it is will be only Saban’s third first-time starter since he came to Alabama in 2007. Saban inherited John Parker Wilson, who first started in 2006, and then Greg McElroy made his debut in ‘09 and A.J. McCarron in ‘11.

The debuts of McElroy and McCarron were impressive, as they each threw for over 200 yards and each won their debut. Alabama QBs are 35-8-1 all-time in starting debuts.

Right now the Tide is riding a three-game win streak. In addition to McElroy beating Virginia Tech and McCarron knocking off Kent State, Wilson’s debut win was against Hawaii. McElroy, like this year’s starter, made his debut in Atlanta, too.

Keep an eye on those passing yards. Alabama is 12-0 all-time when a first-time starter throws for at least 150 yards.

Maybe the QBs don’t matter at all. Saban is 7-0 in season openers at Alabama.

n n n

Shifting gears to tennis ...

Last month during the annual Charleston Public Courts tournament, a feature appeared in the Charleston Daily Mail on Madison’s Brycen Miller. The 37-year-old Miller has a medical condition called gastroparesis, which is paralysis of the stomach. He’s had his large intestines removed, he doesn’t eat and survives largely on a Gatorade-salt mixture and the occasional nutritional IV.

In last month’s story, Miller talked about his need for a complete gut transplant (intestines and stomach) in order to survive, and the arduous recovery process that would inevitably follow. He detested that route, even though doctors had told him he had six months to live.

He’d been delaying the transplant because of his love for tennis. He likely won’t be able to participate in the sport after the three-year recovery period from the transplant because of anti-rejection pills and the constant risk of illness.

There are two updates to pass along.

One, Miller is headed to Cleveland at the beginning of September to begin transplant preparation. Doctors need to improve the health of his liver and kidneys before the transplant.

Two, Miller played in his final tennis tournament this weekend at the Charleston Tennis Club. He teamed with Charleston’s Hasley Whitney to win the 6.5 men’s doubles title before hanging up his racquet for good.

I had the privilege of telling Miller’s story last month. In a bit of serendipity, my doubles team happened to be Miller’s first-round opponent — err, victim — in the weekend-long tournament at CTC.

Hopefully Miller can do to life’s next test what he did to me Friday on the tennis court:

Ace it.


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