COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Meet the NCAA’s renaissance man: Bama’s Barrett Jones

 

jgoodman@MiamiHerald.com

If you’re a casual fan of college football, then chances are good you’ve never heard of the game’s most versatile (and possibly best) player.

I’ll give you a few hints:

• Currently in graduate school, he finished his undergraduate work with a 4.0 GPA in accounting.

• He plays a classical instrument (violin).

• He has volunteered his time in Haiti.

That’s a pretty specific list, but you’re probably still stumped. A few more clues:

• This player has started on two national championship teams at two different positions (right guard and left tackle).

• A redshirt senior, he received All-American recognition in his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons.

• In 2011, he was a consensus All-American at left tackle and won the Outland Trophy.

The player is Barrett Jones of the University of Alabama. He has blocked for two Heisman Trophy finalists during his career, won a pair of national championships and, in a few months, he most likely will be in Miami to play for a third.

Only this time, Jones should be lining up in a national title game as a finalist for the Heisman rather than as one of the main reasons why a teammate received the all-expenses-paid trip to New York.

Jones started at right guard for the 2009 national champion Crimson Tide and started at left tackle for Alabama’s 2011 national title team. This year, Jones has once again changed positions. He is the team’s starting center, and if Alabama makes it to South Florida — and, let’s be real, Alabama is playing for the national title this year — Jones will have the rare distinction of starting in three title games at three different positions.

Nick Saban makes a point not to gush about his players, but he considers Jones one of the best players he has ever coached. Now, obviously, citing Saban’s skills as an evaluator of talent isn’t going to impress many people in this part of the country, but there are a few folks outside of South Florida who consider him a pretty good judge of such things. And the fact that Saban would brag about a player before he’s finished “The Process” should tell you everything you need to know about Jones’ character.

An offensive lineman hasn’t been a finalist for the Heisman since 1996 when Orlando Pace finished fourth in the voting. This could be the year to break that streak. West Virginia’s Geno Smith, who prepped at Miramar High, has emerged as an early frontrunner for the award, but beyond that the field might be murky enough for a lineman to emerge. Of course, beyond the traditional factors working against Jones’ Heisman bid, there’s always this: He might not be the best offensive lineman at Alabama. Most NFL Draft analysts are listing Alabama guard Chance Warmack ahead of Jones at the position.

I know what you’re thinking: Alabama running back Eddie Lacy is enjoying a blessed existence.

Jones might be projected as a guard at the next level, but for now he’s simply the most versatile and experienced player on the best team in the country.

WEEKEND THAT WAS

FSU racked up 667 yards of offense against Clemson in the ACC’s game of the year. Quarterback EJ Manuel emerged as a Heisman candidate, completing 27 of 35 passes for 380 yards.

WEEKEND THAT WILL BE

Ohio State’s Urban Meyer is dreaming of an undefeated season in his first year on the job in Columbus. The Big Ten is currently a five-alarm structure, and the Buckeyes, ranked 14th in this week’s AP poll, could run the table if they get past Michigan State on Saturday.

HEISMAN WATCH

(Not a representation of my ballot if the season ended now.)

1. Jones, senior center, Alabama. 2. Smith, senior quarterback, West Virginia. 3. Manuel, senior quarterback, FSU.

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