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August 24, 2012

Jones primed for larger role

TUSCALOOSA | Count Christion Jones among those University of Alabama players who have had enough of the preseason.

The focus of the team is beginning to turn to season-opening foe Michigan, and nearly a month after fall camp opened, the sophomore wide receiver can hardly wait to play against someone other than a teammate.

"It's exciting. We're just trying to stay focused and worry about the thing we got to take care of in-house, take care of things on the field," Jones said.

The Crimson Tide opens the season in Dallas on Sept. 1 against a top-10 opponent in the Wolverines.

The former Adamsville Minor star played sparingly as a freshman last season, but figures to play a more prominent role this year not only at receiver but as a return specialist as well.

"Christion Jones has done a really good job. He plays fast, he's got great speed, he's very explosive. I've been impressed with him as a return man as well," Saban said.

Jones was the primary backup to Marquis Maze last year on kickoff and punt returns. He broke a 15-yard punt return in the BCS title game against LSU after Maze exited with a hamstring injury. As a receiver, he made just three catches for 49 yards. This fall, however, he is expected to be more involved in Alabama's passing attack.

"I think he's the kind of guy who can make a lot of big plays out there. I think he's a lot more confident at the receiver position now," Saban added. "He's had a really good camp and has done a really good job making explosive plays, and being a consistent performer throughout."

Of Alabama's nine scholarship receivers, five have never caught a pass in a game, and one of those five will miss most or all of the season with a shoulder injury (Chris Black). That affords Jones more of a leadership opportunity despite his lack of experience.

"(I'm) trying to come in and be an impact on the team, so are a lot of freshmen we've got coming in, so are the older guys who've been leading me and keeping me on my feet," Jones said. "I'm just trying to (go) in their footsteps and do everything Coach Saban wants me to do and try to stay inside the box."

Reach Chase Goodbread at [email protected] or at 205-722-0196.

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