TUSCALOOSA — The titles beside Jimmy Sexton’s name include super-agent and SEC powerbroker.
For Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones, he’s just a neighbor.
The redshirt freshman from Memphis, Tenn., grew up close to his head coach’s agent and Sexton is a close friend of Jones’ father, former Alabama basketball player Rex Jones.
So, when Nick Saban came recruiting, Barrett Jones was already familiar with the Crimson Tide coach. He’s met Saban as a child thanks to his connection to Sexton who represents SEC coaches including Lane Kiffin, Steve Spurrier and Gene Chizik, among others.
Never miss a local story.
After taking a medical redshirt in 2008, Jones is among those competing for a starting spot on an offensive line that returns two of the five starters from a season ago. He’s been working at right guard and Saban likes what he’s seen from him so far.
“He’s a fine young man — probably as fine of a young man as we’ve ever had on a team anywhere,” Saban told reporters Tuesday. “He does a fine job representing the organization … I couldn’t be any prouder of any guy on our team. But we recruited him because he has the potential of being a good player as well as a good person.”
As the coach has repeated, starting spots have not been set and that is just fine with Jones.
The shuffling positions are just part of the grind of preaseason practice.
“You just have to be ready for anything,” said Jones who saw action in three games last season before going down with a shoulder injury. “Whereever you’re playing, you just have to go full speed. That’s what I try to do whereever I am on the current day.”
Right tackle was his home at Evangelical Christian School in Memphis where he was ranked the 20th best offensive lineman in the class of 2007 and the No. 1 prospect in Tennessee, according to SuperPrep.com.
A big senior year also earned a spot in the Army All-American game where he got a taste of playing other positions on the line. Jones played both guard and center in the All-American game.
“I think I’ve played everything besides right tackle,” he said. “It’s a little bit of work, but it’s not that bad making the transition.”
When looking for examples to follow, the two returning starters on the line do the job. After Jones watches his own film, he said he goes back to examine senior lineman Mike Johnson’s work to look for clues toward improvement.
Right tackle Drew Davis, who lines up next to Jones, also provides the extra push.
“Drew is a great leader,” Jones said. “When you mess up, he’s right there to pick you up and when you’re not giving a full effort, he’s going to get on you about it for sure.”
As the team prepares for its second and final scrimmage Saturday afternoon, the lessons from last week’s game simulation have been a focus. Jones said pass blocking will be re-emphasized as well as working to spring running backs for long runs.
Saban said the running game was more effective in short yardage situations than in the open field.
That second scrimmage is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium and will be closed to the public.