Barrett Jones has a new challenge this year.
As a freshman and sophomore, the 6-foot-5, 302-pound offensive lineman played right guard, as a junior he went to left tackle, but this year the veteran has been moved to center, replacing William Vlachos.
"It's fun to have a new challenge and it keeps it fresh for you," Jones said. "I feel like I have a better understanding of the offense right now because I've played so many different positions … I wouldn't have it any other way looking back on it."
"I think it tells you what kind of special person, competitor and athlete Barrett is," Saban said. "Barrett is bright, he's a very good athlete and he's not affected by change like a lot of people would be."
Saban compared Jones to Bruce Matthews, whom he was associated with while with the Houston Oilers in the 80s.
"He could play center, he could play guard, he could play tackle, he was a long snapper," Saban said. " He's the only guy that I ever remember [similar to Jones]. That's pretty high class there to be compared to someone like him."
Jones, the reigning Outland Trophy winner who has been named to the award's watch list again this pre-season, had some kind words to say about his coach, too, explaining that Saban is good at anything he does.
"Knowing him the way I know him, if he were a shoe shiner, he'd be the best shoe shiner you ever met," Jones said. "He's an innovator and kind of pioneer of the game. I feel so privileged and honored to play for him."
Jones recounted his experience being recruited by Saban years ago.
"He sits you down and walks you through and shows you exactly how you're going to win a national championship," he said. "I mean lots of coaches do that, but when Nick Saban tells you that, you believe it. I wish all you guys could be recruits so you could see that."
In order to not have a title game hangover type year like the Crimson Tide did in 2010, Jones said Saban has been hammering the fact that they will have a target on their back, they are a different team than the one that won last year's championship and they have much to prove.
"Obviously complacency is a big word for us this year and we want to avoid it at all costs," Jones said. "Coach Saban preached to us to avoid complacency and warned us what would happen if we didn't buy in."
Jones believes a problem in 2010 was that the team leaders didn't buy in and the team wound up with what they deemed a disappointing 10-3 season.
This year the Tide's offense has a comfortable quarterback situation with A.J. McCarron and a new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who is implementing a couple new frills.
"There aren't any huge differences," Jones said of Nussmeier's scheme. "The transition was just as seamless as it could be. He didn't come in and try to change everything. He stuck with the good things, but also added some new wrinkles, especially in the passing game."
Regarding McCarron, Jones has watched him mature since his first start last season against Kent State, to winning the MVP of the national championship in January to working his butt off during this summer's workouts (which Jones says were the hardest offseason workouts he's ever endured at Alabama). At first it was hard for McCarron to become a vocal leader because he won the job right before the season started. But now he's earned much more credibility, which has earned him more responsibility and with that has come more confidence.
"He's pretty fiery," Jones said.
Between all his mission work, keeping a high grade point average and winning national championships (he's won two in his years at Bama), Jones does find downtime.
"You just eliminate a little sleep," he joked. "You can sleep when you're dead. If you get 4-5 hours a night, you have more time to do everything."
Everything meaning football, school and his recent new hobbies: golf and bowling.
Jones, who said golf is "the most frustrating game on the planet," recently shot an 82. Not bad for a newbie.
During the 30-minute interview session at media days, Jones was, of course, asked about Alabama's matchup with LSU on Nov. 3.
"We really respect those guys," he said. "They play a brand of football we really respect. You're sore for about three weeks after the LSU game. It's such a war out there."
But the LSU game is not the only war Alabama will fight this season—they'll be battling from September to January and if the seniors have truly bought into what Saban is preaching like Jones said they have, and there's a trickle down effect to the rest of the team, the Tide won't have a 2010 repeat in 2012.
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