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March 19, 2012TUSCALOOSA | Harrison Jones has had plenty of watch in two years preparing to be an H-back tight end for the University of Alabama.
He saw Preston Dial take full advantage of the role as a full-time starter in 2010. He saw Brad Smelley do the same in 2011. With UA spring practices resuming following spring break, Jones now has an opportunity to step into the role. Jones said he is looking forward to players wearing full pads for the first time on Wednesday.
His toughest challenge at the position, Jones said, has been more mental than physical.
"Probably just learning the blocking concepts and learning where I'm supposed to be all the time," Jones said. "Not as much memorizing stuff, but learning concepts of plays. That's one thing that Barrett's taught me to do better. I think that's why he understands offense as well as he does."
Jones said new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has shown no signs of making the H-back role any less of a factor than it was last year, when Smelley was among UA's leading receivers.
"I think we'll definitely still use the H-back a pretty good bit. You saw Smelley get more and more action in the games as the year went on. Hopefully, we'll use it just as much this year," Jones said. "Anytime we've got two tight ends in the game it's always good."
Jones looks imposing these days with a scar on his cheekbone he said he suffered in a collision with linebacker C.J. Mosley during a 7-on-7 drill. As for the hand he injured at the end of last season, Jones indicated that a pin has been inserted to stabilize the injury, and he feels completely healthy as spring drills resume.
UA coach Nick Saban said he has been pleased with the third-year sophomore's progress to date.
"He's a young guy who has learned. He's a bright guy, he's gotten bigger and stronger, and I think a lot more confident," Saban said. "It's interesting to see how these young guys mature, and that's what we're anxious to see with a lot of guys we have that have opportunities this year."
Reserve running back Blake Sims was withheld from contact Monday with a hip injury sustained over spring break while playing basketball.
"We try to get these guys not to play basketball, but they all think they can play in the NBA," Saban said, "so I guess we've just got to suffer the consequences for that."
Sims' unavailability, along with the injured Eddie Lacy, left UA with only three healthy scholarship running backs Monday: Jalston Fowler, Dee Hart and freshman T.J. Yeldon.
Offensive lineman Chance Warmack participated fully in Monday's practice after being limited in the spring practice opener March 9. ... Offensive lineman Barrett Jones continues to work at the center position after spending last season at left tackle. ... Receivers Michael Bowman, Ronald Carswell and Duron Carter, suspended indefinitely, were not at practice.
Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0196.