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April 11, 2012TUSCALOOSA | Barrett Jones just can't get away from them.
The University of Alabama offensive lineman is well on his way to starting at his third different position in three years this fall, and in practice, he's found himself blocking the Crimson Tide's elite defensive linemen at each stop.
Three years ago, when Jones began his career as a starter at right guard, it was 360-pound nose guard Terrence Cody. An All-Southeastern Conference talent who was later picked in the second round of the NFL Draft, Cody sheer size gave Jones a practice challenge unlike any he has seen since. Things didn't get much easier after Cody left -- Jones then got his practice fill of defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, who was a first-round choice of the Buffalo Bills.
Then last year, Jones moved to left tackle, where he spent the year trying to pass block against another future first-round pick: Courtney Upshaw. And now, having moved to center, Jones is squaring off with 325-pound nose guard Jesse Williams, who himself has moved over from defensive end.
"You put that whole line together, it's a pretty good front four," Jones said. "It's making me better, though."
Apart from blocking Williams, another spring challenge for Jones has been perfecting the snap to quarterback AJ McCarron, as well as the shotgun snap.
"It's coming. Starting to become second nature, which is good," Jones said. "At first, I had to think about it a lot. Every snap I was thinking about not only who I was blocking, but snapping the ball."
As for the shotgun snap, Jones said he's also improving. And when he's off target with it, he's off target in the right place.
"Low, always low," Jones said. "I learned that one. No high ones."
At almost 250 pounds, UA running back Jalston Fowler doesn't exactly look like the sort of rusher who can make tacklers miss.
But he's not afraid to try. Asked if he possesses the spin move that fellow running back Eddie Lacy favors, Fowler laughed.
"I can't do the spin move," Fowler said. "I tried it at practice and (Lacy) said, 'Nah Nudie, leave that to me.'"
Fowler was nicknamed Nudie as a baby by his father, and it has stuck with him throughout his life and into the UA locker room.
Leaving hoops behind
At 6-foot-7, Alabama tight end Brian Vogler had more than football options as a high school recruit. He had basketball options as well, and gave some thought to a college career on the hardwood.
"It was a tough choice, but when it gets down to it, would you rather dunk on somebody or get the thrill of a touchdown in front of 102,000 people?," Vogler said. "Hopefully if I'm lucky enough to get a touchdown here in my career, I'll say it was a lot better than getting a dunk."
Vogler has seen limited game action but has three seasons of eligibility remaining. The business management major redshirted in 2010, and caught one pass as a second-year freshman last season.
"I was a little toothpick when I first got here. I weigh 252 right now. ... If I'm good playing at that weight, that's alright, but if I start getting a little too heavy, I've got to go back down." - Linebacker Adrian Hubbard on his size gains since arriving at Alabama.
"Chance (Warmack). He cleans everything out." - RB Jalston Fowler on which offensive lineman he enjoys running behind most.
Four players who sustained minor injuries in Alabama's second scrimmage have returned to practice this week: Jesse Williams (ankle), Caleb Castille (ankle), Robert Lester (knee) and Vinnie Sunseri (ankle). ... Quarterback Phillip Sims (sore shoulder) continues to be withheld from throwing during individual drills. ... Hubbard said he was contacted as a basketball recruit in high school by then-VCU coach Anthony Grant, now at Alabama. ... UA holds its final practice before A-Day Thursday afternoon.
Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0196.
Tidesports.com Recruiting Coverage: A-Day is Saturday at 2 p.m. Which top recruits will be there to watch the Crimson Tide? Find out here.