Barrett Jones moves front-and-center for Tide offense
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WRCB) -- Barrett Jones likes a challenge.
The University of Alabama rising senior offensive lineman said he chooses new ones every year to attack and conquer. This summer it's been bowling and golf. This fall, it will be a new position on the Crimson Tide offensive line.
After winning the Outland Trophy in 2011 as the nation's best offensive tackle, Jones will move to center in 2012, and the transition hasn't been that difficult.
"I'm an oldest child, so I'm very bossy as it is. Now as the center, I get permission to boss everybody around," Jones said with a smile at last week's SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala. "I was pretty much already doing that at tackle and guard to the frustration of (previous center) William (Vlachos), but now I get the license to do it any time I want."
Joking aside, the transition really has been smooth for Jones after serving as the Tide's backup center last fall. Head coach Nick Saban said he's seen few players with Jones' versatility and ability to adapt on the offensive line, listing NFL Hall-of-Famer Bruce Matthews as the only other player with a similar skill-set.
"Barrett Jones is a special person and a special player," said head coach Nick Saban. "He's a guy that has the diversity to play all the positions, and that starts with who he is. He's a great person who is very serving of other people, and he's a very intelligent person.
"None of this stuff seems to have much of an effect on him. He's able to adjust and adapt and play at a high-level with confidence while he's doing it."
Jones said the move's biggest challenge is the different type of player he'll be facing in the middle of the opposing defense. He had great success keeping SEC edge rushers at bay last fall, now he'll try to contain mammoth nose tackles.
Luckily, he'll get plenty of work in practice against one of the nation's top defenses.
"I always feel like they move me to face our best defensive lineman," Jones joked. "I faced Terrence Cody as a freshman, then comes Marcell Dareus. I was hoping to get a breather last year until they moved me to tackle and I drew Courtney Upshaw, now there's no rest moving inside to face Jesse Williams.
"I don't know what they're doing to me, but it's a cruel trick."
Jones said he's already overcome his biggest obstacle, which came from the least-likely source in spring camp. Incumbant starting quarterback A.J. McCarron joins Jones as one of the unit's primary leaders, but the two didn't exactly see eye-to-eye when the latter moved to center.
"He's definitely a snap diva," Jones joked. "He's used to William (Vlachos), who's a little shorter than me. So the snap didn't come to the same spot it used to and he complained. But we've got that worked out now, and I told him we'd better so he's not turning around and yelling at me on national TV this fall."
That's a good thing, considering Jones' debut at center will be in the Tide's nationally-televised game with Big Ten-power Michigan in Dallas Cowboys Stadium on September 1.