Jones trying to show he’s win-win for Tide
by Joe Medley
jmedley@annistonstar.com
Apr 16, 2013 | 3715 views |  0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama’s Christion Jones has been playing on both sides of the ball during practice this spring. (Photo by Bill Wilson)
Alabama’s Christion Jones has been playing on both sides of the ball during practice this spring. (Photo by Bill Wilson)
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TUSCALOOSA — Christion Jones was asked Tuesday to imagine lining up against himself, slot receiver against cornerback.

The Alabama junior, who is seeing time at both positions during spring practice, was just as quick with a quip as he is with a cut or hip turn.

“If I lined up against myself, nobody else could win,” he said.

Come Saturday’s A-Day Game, he likely will get the chance to show if Alabama can win with him playing both ways.

Jones, fellow receiver Cyrus Jones and running back Dee Hart have worked in the secondary this spring because Alabama is short on depth. At cornerback, the Tide lost Dee Milliner to the NFL draft, and John Fulton has missed all but some individual drills because of offseason surgery for turf toe.

Returning starter Deion Belue and sophomore Geno Smith are the only corners with significant playing experience.

Alabama coach Nick Saban has called this spring’s position changes “experiments” and said they’re not permanent. He wanted some offensive players to get work in the secondary as a stopgap. If needed to play defense in the fall, the two Joneses and Hart at least will have had work at their positions.

Based on how explosive Alabama’s passing game has been in two scrimmages, it’s clear that the Tide needs help this spring.

“We gave up too many big plays, I think,” Saban said of his cornerbacks after Saturday’s scrimmage. “We actually made some improvement in some areas, and I think that’s a work in progress.

“Everybody at that position needs to continue to improve, and we’ve just got to play a little smarter. A lot of it is attention to detail in terms of technique, playing the right leverage on people, playing with more confidence.”

Then again, players coming over from offense to work in the secondary have made “significant improvement,” Saban said.

Christion Jones is most intriguing because he started 10 games and played in all 14 on offense during Alabama’s national title run in 2012, catching 27 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns.

He’s also a versatile player, having played both sides of the ball at Minor High. Saban has said he was impressed with Jones’ high school film on defense.

Still, learning defense in Saban’s system is a challenge.

“It’s mentally tough,” Jones said. “It’s a mental challenge for me. I know the offense pretty well. So for me to go to the defensive side, where things get a little more complicated concept-wise, it’s been fun, learning the defense.

“Even if I don’t become a DB guy, it will help me as a receiver to know what to look for and how defenses are attacking our offense, so I have an understanding on that.”

Jones said he played some on both sides of the ball in this past Saturday’s scrimmage. He also expects to play on both sides this coming Saturday.

“I’ll probably be playing both of them,” he said.

Could he end up playing both sides in the fall?

“Hopefully,” he said.

And if he were to end up on defense permanently?

“It’s always fun when you’re playing football,” he said. “I mean, as long as I know what I’m doing, I think it’s going to be fun, and I’m going to catch on to it. So I don’t really worry about if I’m messing up.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in myself to go out there and perform and know what I’m doing, by the film and what Coach Saban is teaching. I try to use everything I’ve being taught and take it out there on that field.”

Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.
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