Additional Duties For Tide's Barron

Mark Barron played like a veteran last year, but he can still relate to being the newcomer. Last year he joined the starting defense at safety, but he was one of very few new players on a veteran defensive team. This year he's one of the very few players with significant experience, particularly in the secondary.

As Alabama continues in spring football practice, junior Mark Barron has a new role, that of leader. "There's a little added pressure, but I'm feeling all right with it," Barron said.

Last year Bama returned nine starters from a very good 2008 defense. There were stars everywhere–Rolando McClain, Terrence Cody, Javier Arenas, et al. Early projections suggested he would be a back-up to Justin Woodall at safety. Instead, following a freshman season in which most of his playing time had been on special teams, Barron earned the starting job alongside Woodall.

Barron, 6-2, 214, started 14 games last year. Alabama won all 14 of those games in winning the national championship.

Barron, who had been a running back at St. Paul's Episcopal School in Mobile, was outstanding in his first season as a starter. He was Alabama's second leading tackler, trailing only Butkus Award winner McClain. Barron made 43 primary stops and assisted on 33 for 76 total tackles.

Barron led the Crimson Tide and the Southeastern Conference with seven interceptions, which he returned 125 yards. His highlight interception came on the second play of the South Carolina game, as he picked Stephen Garcia and returned it 77 yards for a touchdown. He also broke up 10 passes.

Barron was first team All-Southeastern Conference and third team All-America in his super sophomore year.

This spring Bama is looking for at least nine new defensive starters, including at least three in the secondary–not including the nickel ("star") and dime ("money") backs.

Alabama was in full gear for the first time Wednesday, the Tide's third of 15 practices. Bama goes back on the practice field Friday. The final Alabama work will be the A-Day Game on April 17 at Bryant-Denny Stadium. There is no admission charge and the event will be nationally televised by ESPN. Kickoff will be at 2 p.m. CDT.

A handful of young players are working for the jobs vacated by Arenas, Kareem Jackson, Marquis Johnson, Justin Woodall, Tyrone King, and Ali Sharrief.

Barron said he and the youngsters have "been around each other for awhile now. They are coming along. It's a complicated system we have. I tell them they have to pay attention in meetings, take notes, and then translate it to the field. That's one of the hardest things: to translate it to the field."

Asked specifically about one of the top candidates for a cornerback job, sophomore B.J. Scott, Barron said, "B.J. has been working hard. I guess he's been in his playbook. He knows a lot more than he did last year."

Barron said he has heard talk that the secondary will be the weakness of the defense in 2010, but said that only serves as motivation. He also echoed the sentiment of some of his defensive teammates that this year's defense may be more talented than last year's. He said, "In my opinion it is, but at the same time, if they don't learn, we won't be a better defense. The main thing we have to do right now is learn."

The lack of experience in the secondary means that Barron has to be more vocal.

"Last year I had to make some of the calls, but I didn't have to make every call," Barron said. "It seems like now I'm making every call, and also I've got to help (the younger guys) out. My job is a little bit harder, but I don't mind that.

"I would rather lead by example, but I can't do that right now because you have to communicate. So I have to step out of myself a little bit and talk to everybody else."

"I'm very pleased with Mark Barron," Alabama Coach Nick Saban said. "He's kind of taken the bull by the horns."

"I do most of the talking," Barron said. "But if I mess up, if I need to be corrected, they will say something to me. I guy like Robert Lester, B.J. Scott, even Dre (Kirkpatrick),even though he's a young guy."

Surprisingly, Barron said he doesn't have more confidence this year than he did last year. But there is a difference as a returning starter.

"It's almost the same confidence I had last year," he said, "but this year I know what to expect. Last year I was confident, but I didn't know what to expect."

Barron added, "The only goals I have for the defense are to learn and to be prepared for that first game. Everyone has to know his position. For myself, I need to step more into that role of being a leader."

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