NEW ORLEANS — Julio Jones doesn’t often encounter opposing cornerbacks who can match him inch for inch and pound for pound. He will in Utah’s Sean Smith.
Jones is a 6-foot-4, 210-pound freshman who has often been able to outmuscle smaller corners both at the line of scrimmage, jockeying for the ball downfield and when they’re trying to tackle him. Smith is a 6-3, 218-pound All-Mountain West Conference first-team pick.
“Julio Jones in my opinion is the best freshman receiver in the country,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “He’s a big physical guy. You watch him catch the ball and the SEC defenders just dripping off him. They can’t bring him down. It takes five or six guys to bring him down. But you know we have hopefully a pretty good counter answer.”
Whittingham said he hasn’t seen a bigger corner than Smith on any roster in college football. He said Smith will be matched up on Jones much of the game, especially when Utah loads the line against the run, leaving the corners in one-on-one coverage.
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Smith figures he already has a leg up on some other corners who have tried to cover Jones.
“You don’t see any cornerbacks my size in the nation,” he said. “Usually DBs are like 5-10, 180. He just blows those guys right off the line and breaks several tackles. He’s definitely a challenge.”
Jones, a second-team All-Southeastern Conference pick, easily leads the Tide with 51 catches for 847 yards — both school freshman records. He came in widely regarded as the nation’s top receiver prospect.
“He’s not only a great talent but he takes practice to heart,” Tide offensive coordinator Jim McElwain said. “He takes every (repetition) to heart. He plays hard. It’s important to him. Those are the things that really differentiate talent from greatness.”
Smith has five interceptions to tie for the MWC lead and has returned them for a league-leading 151 yards.
Terrence Cody wants the ball. The Tide’s huge All-America nose guard has been used a couple of times as a blocking back on the goal line, and Alabama scored both times.
Do Bama coaches have any plays where the 6-foot-5, 365-pounder takes the handoff instead?
“Not right now,” Cody said. “They’ve still got me at fullback blocking for the running back in goal line situations. I don’t know if they’ve got any running plays for me.
“I’ve told them I could run the ball. I’ve told them put the ball in my hands and we’ll score. But I told them I might do something that you might not like after I score.”
Cody, who is known for exuberant celebrations, has been a focal point for the Utah offense. He has frequently drawn double-teams and even triple-teams this season. The Utes’ biggest starting offensive lineman is 6-1, 310-pound right guard Robert Conley..