1 Alabama alum who could most help 2016 Crimson Tide
Let’s imagine for a moment you’re given the opportunity to add one Alabama alumnus to the 2016 squad.
That’s just in case you, like every other college football fan in the country, happen to be nervous your team might need extra help to finish the season as national champions. Who would you pick?
To carefully consider this question, one must go beyond simple superlatives. This isn’t a ‘Who is the greatest Alabama player of all-time’ question. This question hinges on the question: What is the greatest weakness of the 2016 Alabama team?
If the annual A-Day spring game was any indication, the more problematic area rests with the offense, not the defense. For the record, spring games are essentially glorified scrimmages that give a hint of some of the things to come but are a far cry from a crystal ball. Also, offenses tend to stay on the vanilla end of things.
One could make the argument Alabama should add a defensive stalwart to make a tough defense even tougher. With last season’s sacks leader Jonathan Allen (12.0 sacks) and one of the stars of the spring game, Tim Williams, showing off his tenacity, couldn’t the defense be unstoppable if Derrick Thomas were added to the fold?
The late Alabama great still holds the NCAA record for most sacks in a season (27). With Allen and Williams combining for 22.5 sacks last season, the possibilities are tantalizing with the addition of one of the greatest pass-rushers to ever play the game.
In the end, the more prudent move is to improve a soft spot than to significantly improve an area of strength. It remains to be seen who will take snaps under center, but an abundance of options are already in place.
If either Bo Scarbrough or Damien Harris is injured, the backfield is in trouble. Still, the combination of Scarbrough and Harris is one of the stronger elements on offense. While Julio Jones is a game-changer for any team, wide receiver is the strongest area on offense. Alabama has Calvin Ridley, O.J. Howard, ArDarius Stewart and Robert Foster at the position this season, quality and quantity.
Finally, we arrive at Alabama’s biggest area of weakness: offensive line. Yes, Cam Robinson is an NFL first-round talent. However, after Robinson, the talent level and experience drops off.
Ross Pierschbacher is expected to start at center this season after serving as a starter at guard last season. Highly touted JUCO transfer Charles Baldwin was kicked off the team. Alphonse Taylor has been relegated to backup due to weight issues. Korren Kirven and Lester Cotton are prime candidates to fill starting roles. Still, the group doesn’t instill a great deal of confidence, and depth may be an issue.
Enter Barrett Jones, one of the most versatile and highly decorated offensive linemen to play college football.
Jones started every game in his redshirt freshman season at right guard during the 2009 national championship season.
In 2011, Jones started every game at left tackle, winning the Outland Trophy as college football’s best interior offensive lineman. The team won the national title, and Jones was selected as a consensus All-American.
As a senior in 2012, Jones served as one of Alabama’s team captains. He started every game at center despite suffering two serious injuries both in the SEC Championship Game and the BCS National Championship Game. At the conclusion of the season, Alabama won another national title, Jones was again a consensus All-American and earned the Rimington award as college football’s best center.
Jones would provide valuable leadership for this year’s offensive line, he would open up holes for Scarbrough and Harris and he’d give a young quarterback time to make passes to a talented receiving corps.
During Jones’ time at Alabama, the program saw four different 1,000-yard rushers (Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon, who became the Tide’s first true freshman to rush for more than 1,000 yards). Meanwhile, quarterback AJ McCarron led the nation in passing efficiency during Jones’ senior season.
Jones would shore up Alabama’s primary area of concern heading into the season. Whether he would help Alabama capture a national championship or not is purely speculation, but three national titles while playing three different positions certainly points to a track record of success.