TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Darius Hanks did not hesitate when asked whether he thinks Julio Jones would play Saturday against Mississippi.
“Yes, sir, I do,” he said.
Four days after breaking his left hand at South Carolina, the Crimson Tide’s leading caught passes with both hands during Wednesday’s practice. A day earlier, tight end Michael Williams said Jones caught passes with just his healthy right hand, but the swelling subsided enough to use both by Wednesday.
“We just evaluate these things day to day,” coach Nick Saban said. “He was able to catch balls today. He did run routes, and he did practice with everyone else. We will just continue to evaluate his progress.”
The injury occurred in the first half against the Gamecocks, but Jones never left the game.
Jones piled up 118 receiving yards on eight catches, including a touchdown, mostly after the bone broke.
“I knew when he came up to the sideline and told us,” Hanks said. “But he didn’t tell the team doctors until later in the game.”
Saban said Monday that he would play as soon as he could tolerate the pain after having a plate and screw implanted into his hand.
The physical nature of Jones’ game being a bigger receiver means he uses his hands to do much more than catch passes.
“You use your hands when you block,” Saban said. “You use your hands when you release off of tight coverage, especially anyone who plays bump and run. Mississippi plays a lot of cover-1, a lot of man-to-man coverage, and he needs to have use of his hands.
“But catching the ball is something that you use your hands with as much as anything, and, so far, he’s been able to do that.”
Saban sees improvement
Now several days removed from Saturday’s loss at South Carolina, Saban is happy with the way his team is responding to the unfamiliar adversity it faces.
“I think we have a better sense of urgency — a little more intensity with what we’re doing,” he said. “We worked pretty well. I think when the game comes, everybody has the will to win. But I think the important thing is that you have the will to prepare yourself to play successfully.”
Still, Saban said something was missing when the game started.
“You have to play for 60 minutes in the game,” he said. “You play winning football that way, which I personally don’t feel like we’ve done all year.”
Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy was sacked seven times Saturday, and the reasons are many.
Does that include wide receivers failing to find open space in the South Carolina secondary?
“Not at all,” Hanks said Wednesday. “I feel like we’re always open out there. I feel like any wideout would say that. … We were open, but things weren’t clicking. They weren’t going our way.”
Right guard Barrett Jones said the offensive line will take the heat, although some appeared to be coverage sacks while others should have been thrown away when the blocking held long enough.
“Anytime we get sacked, we take it personally,” Jones said. “We want to protect him forever regardless of what happens.”