Former Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Julio Jones spent three seasons with Nick Saban playing in his home state. He started as a true freshman and never looked back, catching 179 passes for 2,653 yards and 15 touchdowns in his three seasons. Today we continue our look at the big and speedy wide receiver by talking with SB Nation's Crimson Tide blog, Roll Bama Roll, and their manager Paul Holley (screen name outsidethesindelines).
When it comes to wide receivers, there are many different incarnations and roles one can take. Jones is a physical wide receiver also blessed with great speed. Here's what Holley had to say about his playing style and the way he was used in the offense.
"Julio was the driving force of the passing game, and everything in the passing game ultimately went through him," began Holley. "We would do other things with other complimentary players, but it was generally all predicated upon Julio being the physical No. 1 receiver on the outside drawing the opposing team's best cornerback and frequent double coverages."
Holley continues: "He was highly respected by teammates, and clearly an intense competitor on the field. That said, Julio is a bit of a quiet guy who was never overly vocal. If by leadership you mean a rah-rah guy on the field, then no, he was not that."
Jones didn't pad his stats against cupcakes and then fall by the wayside when it mattered most. As Holley explains, Jones was a key contributor in many high-pressure games in the tough SEC.
"We certainly didn't win 36 games in three years and a national title to boot by having someone like Jones shy away from the pressure," says Holley. "Whenever we needed a big play in the passing game, the football generally went to him and he generally delivered. He played a key role in the last-minute comeback against Auburn in 2009, and his touchdown off the screen pass against LSU that year powered us to victory there as well. Insomuch as the whole notion of 'clutch' performers means anything, nothing in his three years at Alabama suggested Jones would give cause for concern in that regard moving forward."
For the record, Jones caught 10 passes for 199 yards against rival Auburn in the final game of the 2010 regular season, and 10 for 89 and a touchdown against LSU earlier in the season. Those were both losses, but games Jones stepped up in. He had a single catch for 23 yards in Alabama's national championship victory in 2009.
As far as off the field issues, the college bloggers and their readers are in and around the campus life every day. Jones has never been in trouble, either on the field or off, in his entire time in the spotlight.
"In all honesty, there really wasn't one," Holley says about Jones' reputation off the field. "He never got into any legal trouble off the field, nor was he involved in any embarrassing incidents on social media networks, nor anything else that would reflect negatively on his character. He did well in the classroom, and in general he was usually just regarded as a quiet guy who stays out of trouble and goes about his business. For a star player, he kept about as low of a profile as could be expected."
Alabama has a long and storied history dating back before 1900, through Bear Bryant and Joe Namath, to today. That history doesn't stop Holley from lavishing all-time praise on Jones.
"Julio will go down as the best pure receiver in Alabama football history - which many people, including myself, were calling him even when he was a true freshman - and he will be remembered right alongside the true greats of Alabama football. Most Alabama fans understood that he was a three-year player from the moment he set foot on campus, and I don't think many people have any real belief that we'll be able to replace him any time soon moving forward. All in all, he will be remembered as fondly as any individual player possibly ever could be remembered."
As Holley alluded to in the earlier comment, Jones made an impact from the moment he stepped on the field as a true freshman. In fact, Holley's favorite moment in Jones' career was from a practice before he even played in a game for Alabama.
"Many to choose from here, but personally I'll go with a catch he made in fall practice of his true freshman year. It was in a leaked scrimmage video posted on YouTube, and it showed Jones winning a jump ball deep down field, running by the corner, stiff-arming the safety to the ground, and then running into the end zone for the long touchdown. The moment I saw that I knew just how special he was going to be at the collegiate level, so for favorite memories I'll go with that one - with many others coming in a close second."
Jones' transition to the NFL might be difficult, though not for a lack of talent. Holley explains in his final answer.
"The concern with Julio moving forward will be injuries. He could never stay healthy at Alabama, and arguably there is no real reason to expect him to be able to once he moves to the NFL. At 'Bama he was still an elite player despite those injuries, but can that reasonably be expected to hold true in the NFL? He's clearly an elite athlete, he has a great work ethic, he's the most physical run blocker I've ever seen at Alabama, there are no character concerns, and he has no ego. If he can stay healthy I'm confident he'll be a great player, but I'm not so sure he can stay healthy enough to reach his potential."
Many thanks to our friends over at Roll 'Bama Roll and Paul Holley for answering our questions. We'll be talking with them again soon about DL Marcell Dareus.