“But, also, they’re simple.”

In the afterglow of a big win, it’s often easy to overlook some of the details or reasons for that big win:

“They’re good because they are so simple,” [Barrett] Jones said, “but, also, they’re simple. We knew if we had certain shifts, they would get into certain formations that we felt like we would have good runs against. We were right — every play, almost. This is not a flaw in Notre Dame. We watched a lot of film. We had a lot of time to figure out what they did in certain formations.”

 

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Barrett Jones is a Hoss

Barrett Jones is a hoss.  He was hurt in the first half of the first game against LSU, but kept on playing. Impressive:

Pop.

One quarter into Alabama’s biggest game of the season, left tackle Barrett Jones felt something in his ankle give. It was a familiar feeling, but he wasn’t about to give up.

“I got up and stayed in until the end of that drive, and I came back on the sidelines … and I said I’ll just try to play through it,” Jones said, reflecting on the Crimson Tide’s 9-6 overtime loss to LSU on Nov. 5.

Pop!

On the next drive, Jones felt worse pain in his ankle. Now he not only was down, but wasn’t he out?

That’s how it looked when he went to the locker room, but he soon returned. When Alabama got the ball back, he returned to the field, and he played the rest of the game.

This One’s Big: Barrett Jones Returning for Senior Season

All-American and Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones is coming back for his senior season.

The offensive line is shaping up nicely for 2012.  Really nice: Cyrus Kouandjio, Chance Warmack, Barrett Jones, Anthony Steen and D.J. Fluker.  I think we can work with that.

For the record, Jones plays coy about moving to center:

“I don’t know what next year will bring,” Jones said. “I’ve heard scenarios just like you guys have. I don’t know where I project best at. … You read online and apparently everyone else knows what I’m best at. They know Barrett’s not a natural tackle, or they know he’s not a natural guard, he’s more of a natural center, who knows? I don’t know the answer. I’ve heard different things from different people. We’ll just see where next year goes. … I feel like I’ve done alright at tackle. I’ve had a decent year and it’s been fun playing over there.”
But William Vlachos kind of lets the cat out of the bag:
“I think there’s a good chance he’ll probably play center next year,” Vlachos said. “That being said, I don’t make predictions as far as who will play where on our offensive line. If you’d told me a couple of years ago that Drew Davis would be our starting right tackle in 2008, I’d had said you’re crazy. And look what he went on to do. But I think there’s a chance he’ll play center.”
I’m looking forward to it already.

Great Profile of Barrett Jones

The best article I read this weekend was a profile of Alabama All-American offensive lineman Barrett Jones written by Al.com’s Don Kausler, Jr.  Here are a few highlights from the article.

Jones’ priorities:

Just after his mother, Leslie, had talked about how the oldest of three sons could sing and recite 50 Bible verses when he was 2½ years old, Alabama left tackle Barrett Jones explained his priorities.

“I tell people, ‘I don’t want to be a football player who is a Christian. I want to be a Christian who happens to play football,'” Jones said.

What drives him:

“I don’t know why, but I just hate to lose at anything. In school, I want to get the highest grade on every test. It just bothers me when someone does better than me at something. It’s just how I am. I guess that’s easy to see in sports, the drive to be the best, watching film, working out, doing whatever it takes. That’s just been in me since I was born.”

Across the room, his father smiled.

“Probably the way God created you,” Rex said.

His passion fueled his development:

“Barrett began to go through these growth spurts,” Rex said. “He was like a big puppy. His legs and his motor skills were developing, and I came home and told Leslie one day after he was playing in the third or fourth grade, ‘I’m not sure he’s ever going to be an athlete. He may be just a musician and not be able to functionally play high school sports.’

“His middle school played Carterville, a big city school. We got killed,” she said. “He started at linebacker. He got in the car, and I thought he was going to be so mad that we lost. I said, ‘Well, how’d you like it?’ He said, ‘Well, I was born to play football. This is the most fun I have had in my life.'”

When Barrett Jones was a high school freshman, his team lost in the state championship game. A starting defensive end was injured. Jones went in. He was 14 years old and weighed 215 pounds. The opposing left tackle was 19 years old and weighed 360 pounds. His name was Michael Oher. Yes, “The Blind Side”/Ole Miss/Baltimore Ravens Michael Oher.

“One of the first plays, they ran the ball over my side and I made the tackle and I thought, ‘OK, I can do this,'” Barrett said. “The next play, the quarterback scrambled and I got his feet for like a gain of 2. I guess the next play he (Oher) got mad. He just drove me down the field and drove me into the turf.”

Rex saw a difference in his son after that game.

“That just fueled Barrett’s passion,” Rex said. “I think he set his sights and said, ‘I want to be at that level where Michael is.'”

Being recruited, or not, by Mike Shula:

Later that summer, Barrett attended a camp at Alabama, where he was more interested in going to college because of his dad’s background. Rex knew Mike Shula, then Alabama’s head coach, from college. They lived in the same athletic dorm.

“Mike’s staff wasn’t real sure about Barrett,” said Gottfried, Alabama’s basketball coach at the time. “Rex and I would talk on the phone. It frustrated both of us.”

His famous neighbor:

Long before he became Saban’s agent, Jimmy Sexton became Rex Jones’ friend. Sexton’s father, a dentist, was Rex’s Sunday school teacher in Memphis. Jimmy’s mother and father both taught a pre-marriage class that Rex and Leslie attended.

Sexton became the Jones’ next-door neighbor.

“When we got ready to have our children, we were picking out names,” Rex said. “His brother’s name is Barrett. We actually named our Barrett after (Sexton’s) brother. … He’s like part of our family. In his offseason, he’ll eat with us every third or fourth night.”

Real fulfillment:

“Basically I say nothing is going to satisfy you in life except for a relationship with Jesus Christ,” he said. “At times I make football the lord of my life instead of making Jesus that. We won a (2009) national championship, and it’s great, but if that’s what you’re looking for to fulfill your life, you’re going to feel very empty.”

Is he coming back next year?

“Everything in our life, we’ve done like he’s coming back next year,” Leslie said. “That’s the way we’ve been living our life.”

Question #2 – How About That Offensive Line?

The first question we reviewed related to the 2011 edition of the Crimson Tide was “how well will our new quarterback play?” Our next question to tackle is also on the offensive side of the ball and how it’s eventually answered will directly affect how our new quarterback plays.

Today’s question: Who’s going to play left tackle?

Our last two starters at left tackle went on to become first round draft picks of the NFL.  After the 2008 season, Bama left tackle Andre Smith was the sixth overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals. He was replaced by junior college transfer James Carpenter who went on to become the 25th pick of first round by the Seattle Seahawks.

So even though four offensive line starters return from last year, there’s a gaping hole on the left side that must be filled. Like the quarterback position, though, we know who the candidates are to fill the job, we’re just not sure when the position will be settled and how well the new guy will perform.

There appear to be two likely scenarios for the spot.  One option is to move returning All-American candidate Barrett Jones over to left tackle from right guard. This would allow Chance Warmack to remain at left guard, William Vlachos at center and D.J. Fluker at right tackled. Anthony Steen would slide in at Jones’ old right guard spot.

Cyrus Kouandijo

The other option would include true freshman Cyrus Kouandijo at left tackle, Jones at one guard and either Warmack and Steen at the other.

I don’t think we’ll find out the exact lineup until game day, but Internet reports from practice viewing periods indicate that Kouandijo is running second team. That would seem to indicate option one is the likely lineup versus Kent State.

Practice reports also indicate Kouandijo is having a really good fall camp and it would not be surprising at all to see him crack the starting lineup early in the season.

All of this discussion about the lineup, though, is happening without much anxiety. Despite losing Carpenter to the NFL, this lineup is talented and deep. We’ve listed six possible starters above and Alfred McCullough also played significantly last year and can play guard or tackle. That’s seven quality players for five spots.

Last years offensive line struggled on and off for pretty much the whole season. Part of the struggles were due to experience. Warmack, Fluker and Steen were playing for the first time, for example. But part of the struggles were also due to injuries. Fluker was injured and didn’t play versus LSU. Jones was injured and didn’t play versus Auburn. Those two injuries were major factors in losing those two games.

Of course, it would be great to avoid injuries this year, but if the bug does hit again, this year’s team appears to have the depth to overcome at least two major injuries.

Next up we’ll tackle the question of how to replace Julio Jones.