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November 3, 2009

Jones may be poised for strong stretch

TUSCALOOSA _ Here's something that defensive backs around the Southeastern Conference don't want to hear, but probably can confirm about University of Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones: he enjoys making a block as much as catching a ball.

"I just try to go out and have fun," he said Tuesday evening with a grin.

Perhaps that's why the sophomore hasn't been too concerned about receiving yards this season, at least publicly. While being slowed by bruised knee and a sprained ankle, Jones has just 229 yards on 20 receptions for a 32.6 average (in the seven games he's played).

In comparison, last year he averaged 66 yards per game.

Also, Jones has just one touchdown this season, a trick play out of the wildcat formation, and has yet to have a 100-yard performance.

"We just have to get him the ball in the right situations," sophomore running back Mark Ingram said. "He's explosive in that he can break out at any time in any game. Whenever he gets the ball he can take it the distance and make a big play."

That's the way defenses have continued to play him, with a safety usually cheating over the top to essentially double-team the second-year standout.

However, LSU might be an exception. New defensive coordinator John Chavis is known for playing man coverage until forced to play a zone, and the Tigers have one of the Southeastern Conference's best cornerbacks in sophomore Patrick Peterson. He's been on 27 tackles this season with two interceptions including a 37-yard return for a touchdown against Mississippi State.

Last year Jones made the key offensive play to set up touchdowns against both Tennessee and LSU. He finished with six catches for 103 yards in Knoxville, and had seven receptions for 128 yards at Baton Rouge.

He's also coming off a bye week after making a season-high seven catches for 54 yards against the Volunteers, which some think might springboard a strong final month of the regular season.

"Physically I got my legs back under me," said Jones, who also said he's been back to 100 percent for a couple of weeks.

"He's been healthier," senior cornerback Javier Arenas said. "He's always been the same threat, people scheme to try and shut him down. With the injury that can be tough for a player in terms of being a competitor out there. I think this final stretch he's going to come out full stride."

Thank goes for receptions as well as making blocks.

"What more can you ask of a guy than to take someone completely out of the play," senior linebacker Cory Reamer said.


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