Tide offensive lineman Jones not entering NFL draft
by Michael Casagrande
mcasagrande@annistonstar.com
Dec 31, 2011 | 2219 views |  0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TUSCALOOSA — Known as a deep thinker, Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones faced the biggest decision of his career with a list.

Pros on one side, cons on the other. It was only fair with his future in Tuscaloosa hanging in the balance.

Turns out he’s pro waiting to go pro as the Outland Trophy Award winner announced he’ll be back for a senior season after a Friday afternoon practice.

“I don’t know if life gets much better than this,” Jones said. “… it’s probably the most fun I’ve had being on a team in a long time. I don’t know why that is. We have a real relaxed, great culture this year.”

Jones is now the third draft-eligible offensive lineman to commit to returning for next season. Right tackle D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack made the same decision in recent weeks as Alabama prepares for the Jan. 9 BCS National Championship game against LSU.

Anthony Steen, a sophomore who started eight games at right guard, is also scheduled to return. And the injured knee of former top-recruit and left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio should be healed by then. Graduating center William Vlachos offered the first guess as to where the versatile Jones will land next season.

“He has a good chance he’ll probably play center next year,” Vlachos said. “That being said, I don’t make predictions who plays where on the offensive line. If you had told me a couple years ago that Drew Davis would be our starting right tackle in 2008, I would have said you’re crazy. But look what he went on to do. But I think there’s a chance (Jones) will play center.”

Jones, who earned his undergraduate degree in August, briefly played center early in the season and was Vlachos’ backup if needed. He also tried out every position but right tackle in his three flexible seasons.

Right guard was his home the past two years, but he moved over to left tackle after James Carpenter graduated. What comes next year is a mystery to Jones.

“I don’t know where I project best at. ... You read online and apparently everyone else knows what I’m best at,” he said. “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.”

There’s still a game to play this season before any of that matters.

Jones was far from full strength when Alabama lost to LSU in November after spraining his ankle early in the game. As he remembers it, the first sign of trouble came on the first play of the second quarter.

A player rolled into his leg in a freak accident similar to his ankle sprain suffered last season against Mississippi State. He felt the pop, but didn’t leave the game.

“But then the next drive I was trying to take on a power rusher and planted on it and it popped again real bad because it was weak,” Jones said. “I fell down. I think I did stay in for one more play and then I came back over and said ‘I have to go to the locker room and get it taped up more.’”

Jones never missed a snap as he hobbled back to the sideline just in time. He’s still not sure how he made it through the game.

“I few plays I was like ‘Wow, I can’t believe I was doing that,’” Jones said “Especially since it was an injury that took a solid three weeks. Yeah, but when you’re playing there out there the adrenalin really helps.”

Jones didn’t play again until traveling to Auburn in the regular-season finale. He started in what turned out being his second-to-last Iron Bowl.

“I’m in no hurry to get to the NFL, and I definitely do want to play in the NFL one day, but I’m in no rush,” Jones said. “I have one more year of college and I’m really excited about it.”

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