Julio Speaks

For four months, the Alabama media has patiently waited for a chance to speak to Alabama's vaunted freshman class. Most felt that chance would come during spring practice, but an SEC open-locker room policy meant open season Saturday on the likes of Julio Jones and Mark Ingram.



Both were made available after Alabama fell 31-20 to Florida in the 2008 SEC title game in Atlanta. Both had plenty to say.

The biggest crowd understandably was around Jones' locker. The freshman made five catches for 124 yards to lead all receivers. For the season, the 6-4, 215-pounder has 51 grabs, 847 yards and four touchdowns.

Jones came into the year with great expectations from the fan base, as arguably the nation's top recruit. "You can't worry about that (external) stuff. It‘s a team sport," he said, sounding a lot like his head coach, Nick Saban. "As long as you know your teammates have got your back, you'll do well."

"Its been a great experience, coming out and starting as a true freshman. I've done okay. I can get better, just like the whole team can," Jones said. Asked about his season and the fan adoration he's received, Jones said "Its been okay. The fans are great, but they don't control what goes on on the field We still have to come out, and work hard."

Jones quickly became quarterback John Parker Wilson's go-to guy this year. "Its been great. John Parker is a great competitor," Jones said. "I've got a good chemistry with everybody on the team. Everybody on the team is family."

Asked about seizing back the momentum early with a trio of long scoring drives, Jones said, "We kept fighting until the end. Our biggest thing is to finish. That's what we try to do. We don't feed on momentum. We just go out there, and try to play the next play."

As is always the case, Jones had lots of yards after the catch Saturday. "I just try to work hard," he said of his uncanny ability to shake tacklers. "I try to play like every play is my last. Every game, I try to get better."

Jones said much the same about the team's 12-0 start. "When you go out there and play your hardest, you deserve to win," he said. "You expect that.."

Ingram, who carried eight times for 21 yards and scored once, did not expect to be interviewed post-game, but after receiving clearance from a UA media relations rep, the Michigan native quickly opened up.

The first question concerned his game-tying, two-yard run to tie the score with 6:20 left in the third quarter. "It was real important. We were down 17-10, and we started at our own 9, and we went 91 yards. Glen (Coffee) was working, and the offense was clicking. Just to punch it in like that and tie it up was a big momentum swing for us."

Of his health, Ingram confirmed this: "I battled some injuries early on, just a couple of nicks here and there. There was a contusion on the outside of my knee in the Georgia game. Everybody that plays football right now (late in the season) has a couple of nicks and knacks. You just fight through them."

For the season, Ingram has rushed 135 times for 702 yards and a team-leading 12 touchdowns. "I just try to help out the team, any way I can," he said. "Glen (Coffee) is the main guy, and when he needs me to relieve him I come in there and we don't lose too much production. Its been a good year, and I've learned a lot. Every time during the off-season, when I think about this loss, I'm going to work harder.

"I've learned that hard work pays off."

Ingram is part of the consensus No. 1 signing class in the land, a class that helped propel the Tide to a 12-0 start and top ranking in the BCS.

"We just came in here with the attitude that we were going to help turn this (Alabama) program around," he said. "A lot of us got to play. A lot of us played bigger roles, and a lot of us played smaller roles. We're just trying to turn things around, but these seniors had a lot to do with it. They've taught us a lot, helped us stay strong, and pushed us through (the season)."


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