Julio Trying Hard To Help Offense

Julio Jones showed up for a media interview earlier this week in an electric blue golf shirt and matching basketball shoes. His shorts were multi-pasteled. Very Easter season. But it took only a moment to be reminded that it's football season, or at least spring football practice season.

Julio Jones had some nasty scrapes on his elbow. He explained that he had suffered the abrasions while laying out for a long pass in Alabama's practice. Did he hold on?

"I held on," he said.

Holding on is good. Julio had some great plays last year – the trick pass from Greg McElroy after Bama had been in wildcat to score a touchdown against Arkansas, the short pass that he took on a long touchdown run against LSU, the catches he made in the game-winning drive against Auburn. But he also had his share of drops.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban pointed out on numerous occasions that Jones' value to Alabama's offense went beyond the receptions. He draws a crowd of defenders. He knocks those defenders out of the way on running plays.

Still, he's a wide receiver. That means catching passes.

In Alabama's first scrimmage of the spring Friday, Jones was the leading receiver with eight catches for 105 yards.

Julio, who has led Bama in receiving in his first two seasons, has not had an injury-free year. He's had a variety of ailments, including wrist, sports hernia, and shoulder. Nevertheless, he plays on. Now he seems to be at peak strength, weight up about 10 pounds to 220 on his 6-4 frame. And of his injury history, he said, "It's over now. Now I'm back healthy. The main thing is trying to stay healthy and go out there and have a successful season.

"I feel like I'm back to it was when I got here."

Alabama Coach Nick Saban said, "He's done extremely well. He's playing great, having a great spring. I didn't see any deficiency last year."

Saban was making a point earlier in the spring about having players available for positions. Bama has been working wide receivers Brandon Gibson and Kendall Kelly at safety. The Tide coach noted that when he was at LSU, he worked All-America wide receiver Michael Clayton at safety and Clayton ended up playing about 25 plays on defense in the Cotton Bowl against Texas.

Saban then added he might try Julio at safety. It didn't seem to be a serious statement, but some took it to be a possibility.

Julio said the subject hasn't come up. "I think he was just pulling your chain," he told reporters. But, he said, he had played in the secondary in high school. And if Saban asked him to?

"If he puts me in there, I'll do it to the best of my ability. Whatever I do, I try to be great at it."

That could include returning punts, something Jones did a few times last year in relief of All-America return man Javier Arenas.

"It's a long list of guys," Jones said of the punt return competition. "No one has the job yet. We're practicing to see who does the best. I wouldn't mind doing it. If I'm the best I'll take it upon myself to return punts."

Jones may not have the "jukeability" of Arenas, but he has the quality that Saban considers most important in a punt return man. Julio will catch the football.

Defense and special teams are important, but Jones is first of all considered an outstanding offensive player.

He said the offense is doing well this spring, "starting with guys making plays. Everyone expects it from the quarterback and he expects it from us, and we're out there clicking on all cylinders.

"I try to do the best I can and contribute to the team."

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