Jake Jones was an outstanding safety at Mountain Brook High School in Birmingham last year. But a few weeks before Jones moved to Tuscaloosa to begin summer school work and begin taking part in pass skeleton drills with his new Alabama teammates, he got a call from Alabama Assistant Coach Charlie Harbison telling Jones to get some work at wide receiver.
"I want to play wherever I can help," Jones said Monday. "We've got a lot of defensive backs and we need help at wide receiver."
Jones isn't a stranger to wide receiver. "I played wide receiver as a junior in high school and part of the time as a senior," he said. "I've played both (offense and defense) and love both. Whatever will get me on the field."
Jones points out that he "grew up wanting to play football. I love the game."
He certainly has the background for it. Jake's father, Joey Jones, was one of Alabama's all-time finest wide receivers (1980-83), playing his first three years for Paul Bryant and his final season under Ray Perkins, when Mike Shula was a freshman quarterback. Joey Jones led Bama in receiving three years.
Jakes Jones is one of two freshmen who is the son of a former Shula teammate at Alabama. Also on the reporting roster is placekicker Leigh Tiffin, the son of former Bama kicker Van Tiffin. "That makes me feel old," Shula said Monday.
"I understand that comparisons are going to be made," Jake said. "It will be tough, but I hope I can live up to the expectations. I've always had that, but at Alabama it will probably be a little more. If I can do what he did in college, I'll probably be all right."
Jake said that his dad put a football in his hands early. Then, Jake said, "I was lucky enough to have him as my head coach in high school. And he was my coach in an all-star game (Alabama-Mississippi), which was a thrill. It has obviously helped. There have been no drawbacks. I wouldn't be where I am without him."
As a senior last year, Jones had 34 tackles and three interceptions. On offense he had over 200 yards receiving. He also had over 400 yards in punt returns, and he'll get an opportunity for that job in the next few weeks of practice.
Jones said the returning wide receivers coached him in the summer. Although the only two wide receiver spots listed by Alabama (and many teams) are flanker and split end, there are subtle differences that make for more positions. Jones said he has learned the assignments of four wide receiver positions. "I think I'll be ready at the end of two-a-days," he said.
Even with his head shorn in the traditional rookie haircut style, Jake bears a striking resemblance to his father. At 6-0 he's taller by a couple of inches. "But," Jake said, "not near as fast as he was."
And he won't be wearing his father's old number. Number 4 is reserved for Tyrone Prothro. Jake will be in 84.