February 6, 2008

Saban on Julio: He can do it all

Alabama fans have known for a long time that winning the Julio Jones sweepstakes meant adding a five-star wide receiver with nationally-publicized hype.

Thanks to NCAA regulations, however, they had no idea what Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban thought of the Mobile Foley standout.

Once letters of intent roll through the fax machine, however, the rule prohibiting college coaches from public commentary on recruits is lifted. And on Wednesday, Saban addressed what all the hype surrounding Jones (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) has been about.

"He can be a vertical receiver and get deep on you, as well as be a guy that can catch the ball over the middle," Saban said. "He's a physical player, he's a great blocker and he's got great toughness."

In other words, Jones will bring just about every skill a receiver can have when he gets to the Capstone in the fall to compete at a position losing three seniors to graduation.

"He's not a specialty guy. Sometimes you look at receivers and say 'That's an outside guy', 'He's a vertical guy', 'This guy can get in the slot and catch it across the middle on crossing routes who can catch it and run with it'," added Saban. "Julio can do all of the above."

Jones fit nicely as the final-day centerpiece to a signing class ranked No.1 in the nation by Rivals.com. The Crimson Tide reeled in 22 prospects rated four stars or higher, boosting its standing in national rankings with several key pickups in the final days.

Among those were running back Mark Ingram, a four-star recruit who committed Tuesday, and Jerrell Harris, a four-star linebacker who picked UA Wednesday afternoon.

Other top recruits to commit earlier were five-star prospects Burton Scott and Tyler Love.

But on a day where nothing seemed to go wrong for the Crimson Tide, even a few players UA didn't sign landed at a school where they won't get the chance to beat Alabama. Offensive lineman Antoine McClain of Anniston signed with Clemson rather than UA rival Tennessee. He'll almost certainly be on the sidelines when UA meets the Tigers August 30, and only a bowl matchup could create a subsequent meeting. Meanwhile, defensive end Robert Quinn chose North Carolina rather than Auburn. And Tallahassee Lincoln defensive back T.J. Bryant took his act to the West Coast (Southern Cal).

Saban deflected credit for the class to a wide spectrum of help, including assistant coaches, administrators, academic support people, and everyone else involved with the program.

Even the people who buy the tickets.

"Probably just as important as anyone else, our fans should know that their positive energy - the atmosphere that they create in 92000 people being at the spring game - that's something I still hear people talking about all the time," Saban said. "It's something that was very impressive to all these young men who were there, who heard about it, who saw it. It reflects a spirit, a tradition, an energy, and a positive attitude about what we can build here."

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