Barrett Jones Ready For SEC

Barrett Jones knows all about Ryan Mallett. But when Alabama takes on Arkansas in Fayetteville Saturday, Jones—an offensive lineman—will have concerns that don't have anything to do with Mallett, the Razorbacks' All-America quarterback candidate.

"They are an extremely talented team," Alabama right guard Barrett Jones said. "They have more than just Ryan Mallett. We're obviously focusing more on the defense since we play offense. They have an extremely talented defense. We're looking forward to the challenge."

Alabama and Arkansas play at 2:30 p.m. CDT Saturday with television coverage by CBS. Both teams are 3-0. The Tide is ranked first in the nation, Arkansas 10th.

Jones said Arkansas has many of the same players on its defensive front from a year ago, "a lot of returning experience." Last year Arkansas loaded up the front of its defense in an attempt to stop Alabama's running game. The result was Crimson Tide quarterback Greg McElroy throwing for three touchdowns in a 35-7 Bama victory.

"I'm not sure what they'll do this year," Jones said. "I think we'll be prepared for that. We'll be prepared for anything. We'll be prepared for them stacking the box; we'll be prepared for them ... whatever the opposite of that is; not stacking the box. We welcome either one. I feel like our offense is more balanced this year where we can be prepared for things like that. If we have to pass it, there's no problem throwing it. But we also have no problem running the ball."

He said, "I think we're going to run the ball, regardless of how many they have in the box. Obviously, some because that's what our identity is, is be able to run the ball downhill, also while making explosive plays in the passing game. I think we'll definitely run the ball some no matter how many they have in the box."

Jones, a 6-5, 300-pound sophomore who was Freshman All-America last year, is one of three returning starters in the offensive line.

This week's game will be Bama's first in Southeastern Conference play. Jones said SEC play is "a little bigger, faster, and stronger. I was asked the same question by D.J. and Chance (new starting right tackle D.J. Fluker and new starting left guard Chance Warmack) – ‘How's the SEC different?' – and I gave them the same answer: they're bigger, they're faster, and they are stronger. It's pretty simple. We know we have to raise our game and we're looking forward to doing that. We think we have the potential to be a great SEC offensive line. This is where it starts."

Jones said he thought playing Penn State was helpful for Fluker and Warmack, particularly. "That's the good thing about having a tough game at the beginning of the year," he said. "That's what we try to do every year, have a game similar to what would be SEC speed and strength. Penn State's a great team. I think that was good they got to see that and it'll help them be better prepared for the SEC season."

Pre-season conventional wisdom was that the Bama offense would have to carry the Crismon Tide in the early going. From last year's national championship team, Alabama returned eight starters on offense, including Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram at tailback, super-talented Julio Jones at wide receiver, and undefeated starting quarterback Greg McElroy.

Jones said, "I think our defense has done a great job. We haven't needed to take much pressure off them. They've done a great job. We've just try to go out there and score as many points as we can, week in, week out. Our defense has done a great job of getting us the ball in good field position and getting stops."

Jones is also impressed with the improvement Greg McElroy has made at quarterback. "One thing we've noticed is he's getting the ball out of his hand a little faster," Jones said. "That makes it easier on us (offensive linemen) and we appreciate that. It makes us look good."

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