September 26, 2007

Wilson takes criticism in stride

Football is a game of teamwork but when things go wrong on the field there's one player who often fins himself bearing more criticism than the rest of his teammates: the quarterback.

John Parker Wilson didn't throw an interception in the Crimson Tide's 26-23 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs but many fans and critics have pointed to missed opportunities by the junior signal caller as the center of blame for the Tide's defeat.

"I didn't play as well as I would like to," admits Wilson, who completed 17-of-35 passing attempts in the game for 185 yards. "I think I made some good plays but not as many good plays as we needed. We didn't turn the ball over, we missed a couple here and there but that's the difference between winning and losing.

Head coach Nick Saban stressed this week that he did not believe Wilson's play was a cause for concern but rather a result of the pressure that goes along with being a quarterback in a new offensive system.

"What I think John Parker needs to do is just settle down," Saban said. "Take what the defense gives. Make good decisions. I think sometimes he puts too much pressure on himself, which can get him out of sync a little bit. And I think the players around him need to play well.

"We probably had a little more pressure in this game than what we had in the past, and how we picked up that pressure, how we handled that pressure, when we're supposed to break hot, where we're supposed to throw it hot. All those things we have to be effective at and confident in so that we don't get out of sync."

Added to the pressure of managing an offense is living with the criticism of a rabid fanbase and the media, something Wilson's teammates say the junior is not bothered by.

"We all had a tough time after the loss, but you just have to forget about it. He seems pretty focused to me this week," said senior Keith Brown. "I don't know what's going on inside his head but what he's showing me on the practice field is that he's got his mind right. That's all I can ask for."

"We try to tell him not to pay attention to it," said DJ Hall. "Once you start worrying about what people are saying it messes your mind up. You lose focus. We tell him don't worry about it, just go out there and play your game. Do what you did at Hoover. He was a great quarterback then and he's a great quarterback now."

Wilson said the criticism from fans and pundits is hard to avoid but that it doesn't surprise him considering he's already heard it all from his biggest critic.

"I don't go looking for (criticism) but of course I hear it," Wilson said. "I think I'm a bigger critic of myself than anybody else will ever be so the stuff I hear is stuff I've already told myself. It doesn't bother me. When we go out there and win on a last second drive, everybody's excited. That's just the way it is. I learned that last year."

"It's what have you done for me lately. If we'd have won, people would be looking at it different. Whatever happens last is what people are going to talk about it. It doesn't bother me at all."

Wilson's older teammates say his ability to take criticism in stride reminds him of his predecessor at the position, former Tide quarterback Brodie Croyle.

"You can tell it doesn't get to him. We can laugh and joke about it," said Hall. "He's able to look forward. Brodie was always like that. Nothing ever got to Brodie. He was focused all the time. I think that's where John Parker gets some of it."

Regardless of Wilson's early-season issues, Hall said the Tide's offensive leader has the trust and confidence of his teammates, all of whom believe in Wilson's ability to make plays when the team needs him the most.

"There's just a few things we all can do here and there. JP's a good quarterback," Hall said. "We just have to work a little harder in certain areas to be ready for certain situations. He's always had a winning attitude."

"Our expectations are high, not just Coach Saban but myself and everybody else on the team," Wilson said. "If we don't go out there and perform every week, we're pissed off just like everybody else. It's not just Coach Saban or the fans, we get upset too. But that's what keeps us going, that's what makes us practice. We want to be better and we know we can be better."

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