Hanks Is Trying To Make Some Noise

Would a piano player want an opinion from Van Cliburn? Would a writer want William Shakespeare wielding an editor's marker? Consider, then, being one of the Alabama wide receivers in spring practice having Julio Jones as spectator.

Darius Hanks is one of the top returning wide receivers for Alabama this year. Following practice this week, he was asked about the men Bama is having to replace on offense, in cluding former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram at tailback; two-year starter Greg McElroy at quarterback; the critical left tackle, James Carpenter.

The biggest void?

"I would say Julio," Hanks replied without hesitation. "I mean, he's just a freak out there. It's going to be hard to replace a guy like that. But I feel like we're still going to be able to get the job done without him."

Julio Jones, who is rehabilitating a broken foot as he awaits the pro football draft, is passing up the senior year he would have shared with Hanks, Marquis Maze, and Brandon Gibson. Jones, who is expected to be a high draft choice, caught 78 passes for Bama last year. That's more than Maze (38), Hanks (32), and Gibson (4) combined.

Thus, Jones is a spectator at this year's Alabama spring football practice.

"He's come to a few practices," said Hanks. "If we do something wrong, he'll point it out to us, let us know how we can improve on it, whatever. Besides that, he's just being a spectator out there."

If Hanks is correct, Jones wouldn't have much to talk about.

"It's been going really well out there," Hanks said. "This is a new year, a new start. I feel like everybody's coming together this year and we (receiving corps) are going to make a lot of noise out there this year."

Alabama, coming off a 10-3 season, has had five practices with a sixth scheduled Wednesday. Bama is working towards its first scrimmage on Saturday. The Crimson Tide of Coach Nick Saban will conclude spring practice with the A-Day Game on April 16.

Last year Hanks had 32 receptions for 456 yards, an average of 14.2 yards per catch with three touchdowns. In his career of 36 games, Hanks has 58 receptions for 882 yards and six touchdowns.

A 6-0, 185-pound upcoming senior from Norcross, Georgia, Hanks started seven games for Alabama's 2009 national championship team and all 13 games last season.

Hanks has done well in previous spring practices. After being redshirted in 2007, he won the Ozzie Newsome Award as the most improved freshman in 2008 spring practice; and following last spring he was winner of the Ray Perkins Most Improved Receiver Award.

Alabama's receivers will be working with a new quarterback this year with the graduation of McElroy. Hanks acknowledged that. "Of course, everyone is going to miss Greg," he said. "You're always going to miss a guy like Greg, who is just the captain out there."

But, Hanks said, the contenders to replace McElroy, A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims, are doing well. "I feel like A.J. and Phil can get the job done," Hanks said. "It's going to take time. It doesn't come overnight. But I feel as time goes on, those guys will progress more as leaders and they'll get the job done out there."

Hanks said the passing game "hasn't changed much. A.J. and Phil may have a little stronger arms than Greg, but that's about it. As far as leadership tendencies, getting the ball to us, it's about the same."

Hanks finds himself being more of a holler guy as his senior season approaches. "I feel like my role is huge this year," Hanks said. "A lot of the younger guys look up to me. In the huddle, I try to get everybody going. Not just the wideouts–the O-Line, the quarterbacks, everybody. I'm trying to increase my role this year."

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