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March 11, 2012TUSCALOOSA | Barrett Jones has replaced Marlon Davis at right guard in his career, and James Carpenter at left tackle as well.
But in a bid to replace William Vlachos at center in his final college season, the University of Alabama's most versatile offensive lineman may have found the ideal home for his widely recognized leadership skills.
Presnap communication between offensive linemen begins with the center, and if that communication is inadequate in any way, confusion, missed blocks and blown assignments can result.
"I think that Barrett Jones has been a very good leader for us because of who he is. He has leadership qualities. He's got tremendous character. I think he cares about other people, sets a good example for them," UA coach Nick Saban said. "He is playing a position now that sort of enhances his leadership ability because he'll make a lot of line calls and is very involved with what's going on."
Being among the team's most intelligent players won't hurt, either.
Jones carries a 4.0 grade-point average and already has an accounting degree. Now working toward a master's degree in accounting, Jones earns Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll honors as a matter of routine.
"When you had Vlachos (at center) for so long, you get used to one way," tight end Michael Williams said. "But now you have Barrett come in, who is a little taller and a little more - not that Vlachos isn't smart, but Barrett is a genius almost."
Jones got some practice time at the center position last year and some limited game action early last season. That experience, along with the continued development of Cyrus Kouandjio at Jones' previous position of left tackle, could make for a smooth transition during spring practice.
"There's no experiment involved in Barrett playing center," Saban said. "That experiment was all done last year. He got a lot of reps and played some in games. I don't think there's any question about the fact he'll do a really good job. ... I just think he'll just flourish in the role he's in now because of the intangibles he has and the kind of character he has."
Alabama opened spring practice Friday, but players have more than a week off for spring break before practice resumes March 19. Kouandjio has recovered from knee surgery he underwent after being injured last October, at which time he was earning increasing playing time behind Jones at left tackle.
Saban said Kouandjio was playing on the level of a starter last year as a true freshman.
"We thought he was a starter last year. Obviously, he's a freshman, but he made tremendous progress," Saban said. "Obviously, his injury set him back a little bit, but he's worked very hard and made a good recovery. We think he can be a very, very good player."
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com at 205-722-0196.