All-American Barrett Jones has made the switch from left tackle to center (Getty)
In his first two years at Alabama, Barrett Jones started 25 games at right guard. Last year, Jones' primary position was left tackle. After being one of the best guards in the country, he was arguably the best left tackle in 2011 and won the Outland Trophy, given to the best interior lineman on either side of the football.
After he decided to stay at Alabama for his senior year, Jones will be a front-runner for more hardware in 2012. But if Alabama's first spring practice is any indication, it won't only be for the Outland, but for the Rimington Trophy as well.
The All-American played four positions on the line at various points in 2011 and is starting spring practice at center for the defending national champion Crimson Tide. And according to coach Nick Saban, this isn't a test. Why? Because of sophomore tackle Cyrus Kouandjio's development.
You may remember Kouandjio as the player whose dramatic recruitment was one of the top stories of 2011 signing day. He committed to Auburn, but didn't submit his letter of intent, and signed with Alabama three days later. Kouandjio received significant playing time as a freshman, but suffered a season-ending knee injury against Tennessee.
"We thought (Kouandjio) was a starter last year," Saban said. "Obviously he's a freshman, but he made tremendous progress. Obviously his injury set him back a little bit but he's worked very hard and made a good recovery.
"We think he can be a very, very good player. There's no experiment involved in Barrett playing center. That experiment was all done last year. He got a lot of reps and played some in games. I don't think there's any question about the fact he'll do a really good job."
Tight end Michael Williams called Jones "a genius, almost," so line calls and blocking assignments at yet another new full-time position probably won't be an issue. Minnesota's Greg Eslinger is the only player to win both the Rimington and the Outland Trophy, but he won them both while playing center in 2005. No player has won the Outland Trophy at guard or tackle and then the Rimington Trophy.
Had Jones left for the NFL draft after last year, he was projected by many to be a top-1o pick. While centers traditionally aren't drafted as high as tackles or even guards, in this case, Jones' versatility may only serve to help his draft status, as if he succeeds at center, whoever drafts him could plug him in at virtually any position.
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- Outland Trophy