Christion Jones, a three-year letterman and two-year starter, is listed as a wide receiver for Alabama. But he was selected pre-season All-SEC first team as return specialist and as all-purpose. He is that.
As a receiver, last year Jones, 5-11, 187 pounds, had 36 receptions for 349 yards and two touchdowns. That was good for third most catches and fourth most yards among Bama pass-catchers. In his career, he has had 66 catches for 766 yards and six touchdowns.
As a return specialist, though, he was The Man for Alabama. He had 23 punt returns for 321 yards (14 yards per return) with two touchdowns. On kickoff returns, he ran back 22 for 631 yards (28.7 yards per return) with a touchdown.
He was the 2013 SEC Special Teams Player of the Year as selected by the league coaches.
(He also had two rushes for 34 yards.)
Jones was national news and Walter Camp National Player of the Week in Bama’s opening game last year as he scored touchdowns via punt return (72 yards) in the first quarter, kickoff return (94 yards) in the second quarter, and pass reception (38 yards) in the fourth quarter as the Tide downed Virginia Tech 35-10 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Jones and his teammates will be opening the 2014 season in Atlanta against West Virginia on Aug. 30.
So what does a guy who can seemingly do it all work on in practice?
Would you believe “Blocking.”
Jones had been asked about tight end O.J. Howard. The wide receiver said, “He’s getting better every day. He’s doing a great job on his blocking schemes, which is what he wanted to focus on because as a unit we all wanted to focus on blocking and he’s doing a great job as a tight end. He’s mostly known for his route-running and pass-catching as a tight end, but he’s also good at blocking.”
Jones was in a bit of a surly mood as he met with reporters following Monday’s practice. The Tide had just finished the morning practice and had another one to go. But he was willing to talk about the Saturday scrimmage – a practice that had been conducted primarily in the rain at Bryant-Denny Stadium and which had been interrupted once for a 40-minute lightning delay.
“I think coming out we did a good job offensively and defensively,” Jones said. “We had a lot of tempo at first, but when the rain came as circumstances came out it didn’t go so well. A lot of that was part of the leadership trying to up-tempo guys and get guys going. I think we have to have a better mindset when those things happen so that we’re prepared for it when it happens in the season.”
A surprising Saban pronouncement following the scrimage was that his elite wide receiver corps had dropped some balls. Jones called it “a combination of everything. Slick balls, wet gloves, not looking the ball in. A combination of everything.”
The Big Three in the wide receiver corps in addition to Jones is pre-season All-America junior Amari Cooper and fellow senior DeAndrew White. Jones said the atmosphere with the wide receiver group is “great. We’re all competitors who want to get better every day. No matter what it is, we try to help each other out; pick out the things we’re doing wrong and point out the things we’re doing right so we can continue to grow as a unit.
“I just try to go out and get better. I watch these guys, DeAndrew White and Amari Cooper, and take some of the things those guys are doing and put it in my game. Watch film from previous years to see what I need to correct, and I’m trying to correct those things in practice.”
Jones also said young receivers Chris Black and Ardarius Stewart “are doing a great job. We’re all trying to get better every day. They are trying to learn from us and we’re trying to help them and teach them to do it the right way, and they are responding.”
Jones wouldn’t single out any cornerback who is particularly tough to go again. “Everybody is doing a great job,” he said. “Everybody is trying to learn. From Tony Brown to Marlon Humphrey, Bradley Sylve, Cyrus Jones, they all are doing a great job.”
Jones was also asked about fall camp special teams work.
“Every day we do special teams, some type of special teams, whether kickoff, kickoff return, punt, punt return,” he said. “We do field goal. So we work on special teams every day, watch films on special teams every day.”