TUSCALOOSA | University of Alabama left tackle Barrett Jones will return to UA for his senior season in 2012, the fourth-year junior said Friday.
A consensus All-American and the Outland Trophy winner as the nation's top lineman, Jones was among several UA underclassmen with a strong opportunity to make an early jump to the NFL.
"I just sat down with my family, kind of made a list of pros and cons, and decided I love college and I love being in Alabama," Jones said. "I love putting on the crimson jersey and I have a great group of friends. I'm in no hurry to get to the NFL. I definitely want to play in the NFL one day. But I'm not in a rush. I have one more year of college and I'm really excited about it."
Jones described the decision as a difficult one, and said no singular factor drove his choice.
"I guess the main reason to stay is that I love being here. That sounds cliched but, I don't know if life gets better than this," Jones said. "I really enjoy being here. I love our coaching staff. Coach (Jeff) Stoutland, I really enjoyed playing for him this year, and I've just had a lot of fun. It's been the most fun I've had being on a team in a long time."
With left guard Chance Warmack and right tackle D.J. Fluker previously confirming their returns to Alabama as well, the Crimson Tide is now certain to return four of five starters on its offensive line next season. Center William Vlachos, a fifth-year senior, will exhaust his eligibility after the BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans Jan. 9. Jones said he feels "great" about the potential of UA's starting line in 2012.
Exactly where Jones will play next season is a different question. With two prior years of starting experience at guard and one at left tackle in 2011, he could return at left tackle as one of the league's best pass protectors. Another option would be center, to fill Vlachos' vacancy. Jones saw limited playing time at center early in the season.
"I don't know what next year will bring. I've heard scenarios just like you guys have. I don't know where I project best at," Jones said. "... You read online and apparently everyone else knows what I'm best at. They know Barrett's not a natural tackle, or they know he's not a natural guard, or he's more of a natural center, who knows? I don't know the answer."
Vlachos said he believes Jones would be effective in the position he will relinquish in two weeks.
"I think there's a good chance he'll probably play center next year," said Vlachos. "That being said, I don't make predictions as far as who will play where on our offensive line. If you'd told me a couple of years ago that Drew Davis would be our starting right tackle in 2008, I'd had said you're crazy. And look what he went on to do. But I think there's a chance he'll play center."
Two more confirm Senior Bowl plans
UA center William Vlachos and linebacker Courtney Upshaw both said they were invited and will play in the Senior Bowl in Mobile next month. They are the third and fourth UA players known to have received an invitation, along with nose guard Josh Chapman and wide receiver Marquis Maze. Of the four, only Chapman has said he is undecided about whether to play. As an All-American senior and a Mobile native, safety Mark Barron is expected to receive an invitation as well.
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