Barrett Jones is a 6-5, 302-pound offensive lineman who is starting for the fourth year at his third position, this season at center. He’s played on two national championship teams.
“I think everyone understands our goal wasn’t to beat Michigan,” he said, following second-ranked Alabama’s 41-14 win over the Wolverines in Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. “It was great to win and it’s great to have a win over a top ten team like Michigan.
“But our goal is to win the national championship.
“This was the first step in that journey, but we have a long way to go.”
Alabama returns to action Saturday when Bama has its home opener against Western Kentucky. Kickoff in Bryant-Denny Stadium will be at 2:30 p.m. CDT and the game will be televised on the Southeastern Conference television network.
“I think the most improvement a team can make is from week one to week two, so we’re looking to make a lot of improvement,” Jones said.
Jones has heard that Western Kentucky Coach Willie Taggert has reached deep into the hyperbole bucket when he suggested that Alabama could be an NFL expansion team.
“Obviously, he’s kidding,” Jones said. He said he thinks the strategy of most opposing coaches this year “is to pump us up with compliments, which is great, but we can’t
“We have a long way to go to be the team we can be. Western Kentucky is a big game.”
Alabama jumped out to a 31-0 lead on the Wolverines, in great part because the Crimson Tide offensive line was winning the line of scrimmage.
“We did some good things early,” Jones said. “I really liked our intensity. We weren’t complacent, which was something we tried to avoid. The execution was average. We made a lot of mistakes, and, honestly, left a lot of points out there, I think. We kind of let off the gas a little bit in the second and third quarters, which was kind of disappointing, but we finished strong.”
Bama didn’t have a great start, going three-and-out on its first possession. That didn’t worry Jones. “First drives are over-rated,” he said. “There’s always a lot of emotion and people freak out, I guess, if we don’t get a first down. But we have a lot of veteran guys, and we came to the sideline and said, ‘Okay, settle down. It’s a long game.’ It’s good to have a good first drive, but it’s not vital.”
There was even a bit of humor. Starting right guard Anthony Steen had to leave the game early.
“His shoe came off,” Jones said. “We were all freaking out and he goes, ‘Relax. Shoe malfunction.’”
Early in the game the Tide offensive line showed its muscle with several blocks that put Michigan defenders on their backs, but there is no extra credit for pancake blocks, Jones said. “I think pancakes are a little over-rated,” he said. “I think they just want a stat for offensive linemen, so we say ‘Pancake Block.’ Pancakes are good, obviously, but you can have an effective block without pancaking someone. It’s great to do it and it’s part of dominating your opponent to have those blocks every once in a while.”
As for himself in his first game at center, Jones said, “I think I did all right; a lot of good things. A lot of different things that you can only learn in games, I think. Putting my head down, especially, was a big adjustment. I’d been doing it a lot in practice. I’m talking about silent count, I mean, putting my head down and then raising up. I did it all week in practice, but it’s different in the game. You put your head down and you’re seeing one thing, and then you lift it back up and it’s different. It’s something you have to get used to.”
Jones was asked if this line is the best collection of physical talent on the first team offensive line since he’s been at Bama.
“It could be in talent,” he said. “We do have a lot of talent. But there is a lot more to making a great offensive line than just talent. There is that, and communication is a big part of it, and chemistry. Those parts have to be developed. But certainly we have the groundwork to have an excellent offensive line.”
One thing that pleased Jones, a self-professed “old school guy.” Bama made effective use of the I-formation, particularly with T.J. Yeldon at tailback and Jalston Fowler at fullback.
Jones said, “I love it. I think it’s great. I’m kind of an old school guy, so I think it was a great wrinkle we put in last week. I think Jalston Fowler is such a valuable asset we have. We’re learning about different ways to use him. He might be our best receiver, too, at running back. That makes him just that much more valuable playing at fullback or H or wherever he’s playing just because he is so versatile. When he comes in a game, opposing teams don’t know whether to put their big personnel out there or their smaller personnel out there.”
Yeldon had an historic game, the first true freshman to rush for over 100 yards in his first game. He had 11 carries for 111 yards.
That didn’t surprise Jones.
“Honestly, we weren’t surprised,” Jones said. “We had been seeing that out of him for a long time. I don’t think it’s a secret that he might be the next one kind of in line to take over that title of our great running back. We feel good about the future with him.”
Jones said that Michigan having an extra man in the box didn’t adversely affect the Tide offense. “We had a really good plan to deal with that,” he said. “I really liked our plan. We found a way to run the ball with eight guys in the box. We expected that.”
Are there more wrinkles like that to come?