What A Difference A Year Makes

Mark Barron can expect a busy day Saturday, and he's probably looking forward to it. The Alabama safety leads the Southeastern Conference in interceptions with six through 10 games. If Chattanooga, Bama's Saturday foe, stays true to form, Barron can expect a number of opportunities to add to his interceptions.

The problem for Mark Barron and the Alabama pass defense in general, however, is that Chattanooga passes the ball frequently, but doesn't often throw the ball to the opponent. Mocs quarterback B. J. Coleman has thrown 376 passes and has been intercepted only seven times.

Alabama, 10-0 and ranked second in the nation, closes out its home season and plays its final non-conference game of the year when the Crimson Tide hosts Chattanooga at 11:21 a.m. CST Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The game will be regionally telecast in limited markets by the SEC Network.

Barron picked off two passes last week against Mississippi State in Starkville and gave Barron the SEC lead in interceptions. The first came early when the contest was still in doubt. The second, an excellent diving grab, came just before Mark Ingram put the final nail in State's coffin with a 70-yard run to make it the final score of 31-3.

Barron also has broken up nine passes, giving him 15 passes defended this year. He and teammate Marquis Johnson (14 break-ups and one interception) lead the SEC in passes defended.

Barron has returned his six interceptions for 111 yards, including a memorable pick six on the first series of Bama's game against South Carolina. Barron returned the interception 77 yards to get Alabama started on a 20-6 win.

Barron is a 6-2, 214-pound sophomore from Mobile. Last year as a true freshman he played primarily on special teams, but was also asked to play several positions in the secondary. Too many positions, according to Tide Coach Nick Saban.

Barron had 18 tackles as a kick coverage man and back-up safety last year.

Saban said that because Barron has so much ability, that as a freshman the Tide "tried to make him learn three or four positions so we could get him on the field. That probably wasn't fair to him as a freshman. This year we have had him in his specific roles, and he has improved throughout the course of the year and played extremely well all year."

Saban was asked "whether Mark Barron has exceeded your expectations."

"No," said Saban, "because I don't really have expectations for players. I just coach them every day to try to be as good as they can be.

"Mark is a guy who has a lot of ability. He has knowledge, experience now. I think he has a lot more confidence in understanding what he is supposed to do and how he's supposed to do it and why it's important to do it that way. I think that helps players play faster and make plays and Mark has made a lot of plays this year."

Bama middle linebacker Rolando McClain said, "It's no surprise to me that Mark has had so much success because he works hard. Coach Smart (Defensive Coordinator and Safeties Coach Kirby Smart) has done a good job of coaching him up, and he's done a good job. He's a good guy and he needs to contribute in order for the defense to be good. He has stepped up."

In 1952, Hootie Ingram had 10 pass interceptions, which is the Alabama record. Ingram (who served as Bama's director of athletics in the late 1980s and early 1990s) did it in 11 games. That Tide of Coach Harold "Red" Drew went 10-2, including a record-setting 61-6 rout of Syracuse in the Orange Bowl.

Barron will have a few extra games in the chase of Ingram's record.

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