Tide Receiver Has Respect For Irish
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Tide Receiver Has Respect For Irish

Probably because Notre Dame's front seven has such a reputation for fierceness, there has been more attention than usual paid to Alabama's receiving corps; most of the receivers, anyway. And although most think of Bama as a running team, the record says the Crimson Tide will be balanced.



Alabama, 12-1 and ranked second in the nation, is less than a week away from its BCS National Championship Game against number one Notre Dame (12-0). The teams meet in Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., Monday night. Bama was to return to the practice field today, have a final Tuscaloosa practice Wednesday morning, and then fly to South Florida to complete preparations.

Alabama goes into the game having averaged 224.6 yards per game rushing and 214.5 yards per game passing. The Tide has 35 rushing touchdowns, 27 passing TDs. Pick your poison, opposing defenses.

Much of the success of the Crimson Tide passing game goes to the running game, because Bama has been very effective with play action passes. Credit also to an offensive line that protects the quarterback. And, certainly, A.J. McCarron has been excellent, the nation's most efficient quarterback with 191 completions in 286 attempts for 2,669 yards with 26 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

And it goes to a receiving corps that has been hurt by injury this year. Chris Black was out before the season started. DeAndrew White played in only five games before being injured. Kenny Bell went down with a broken leg in the Auburn game.

But the Tide has soldiered on, primarily with freshman Amari Cooper (53 receptions for 895 yards and nine touchdowns and junior Kevin Norwood (26 receptions for 395 yards and four touchdowns). Norwood, of course, was one of the heroes of Alabama's 2011 national championship with his big catches against LSU in the BCS Game in New Orleans.

And Bama's third-leading receiver?

Christion Jones is probably better known to Tide fans as a punt and kickoff return man, and particularly for his 99-yard touchdown run with an Ole Miss kickoff this year. His first real splash came in last year's BCS win over LSU. After Marquis Maze went out with a pulled hamstring on a punt return, Jones took over the kick return duties. He had a 32-yard runback of LSU's only kickoff and had a 15-yard return on a punt return. But most impressive was his handling of several fair catches deep in Tide territory.

Jones was asked who might be a surprise this year as he was last year.

"That's what is going to make it a surprise," he said. "You really can't tell right now who is going to be that new person that's going to step up because to me, the way we play there's no difference between being a freshman and a senior here. It's just about when your number is called you've got to be ready to go. I think one to watch, that I think to watch, is Marvin Shinn. He's done a great job this week and last week practicing and preparing for the game."

This year, Jones has a respectable 25 receptions for 328 yards, a 13.1 yards-per-catch average, and four touchdowns.

Jones, a 5-11, 185-pound sophomore who played at Minor High School, said that Notre Dame will be a difficult opponent. "They've made a lot of great plays on the ball," he said. "They do a lot of different things with man coverage. They play great man, they play good zone defense. They do a lot of things well that we're going to have to focus on."

Jones is aware that the Irish secondary includes several players who were formerly wide receivers, but says "You can't really tell. There are a lot of similar things in the two positions. They have great hips, great quickness, fast, explosive."

That does not mean, however, that Jones might be able to move to cornerback. "We'd have to talk about that," he said. "You come and watch practice you could see for yourself."

No problem. Jones is settled in at wide receiver, a 10-game starter, including the last eight games of the season. And it won't be a huge surprise if he doesn't come up big against Notre Dame.