Jones shows signs of stardom against Spartans

Jason Galloway

Many thought this would be the year Julio Jones emerges into one of the top wide receivers in the country.

The junior didn’t waste any time trying to prove that statement right in Alabama’s 48-3 victory over San Jose State Saturday.

The first three plays of the game were completions to Jones, and a 13-yard end around four plays later set up the Crimson Tide’s first touchdown of the game.

“Julio’s obviously an integral part of our offense,” quarterback Greg McElroy said. “We want to come out and get the ball on some high completion percentage-type stuff – get the rhythm going a little bit. I was really happy to see him make some guys miss and run the ball effectively, too.”

Jones and Georgia’s A.J. Green were undoubtedly the top two wide receiver prospects coming out of high school in 2008, but being one of the top pass catchers at the college level was not something that accompanied Jones right away at Alabama.

The 6-foot-4 Jones is a physical receiver with big-play ability, but he has also been known to have quiet games in the past, and drops have not been uncommon in his first two years at the Capstone.

Near the end of last season, Jones began to show flashes of the hype that surrounded him when he came to Alabama, and on Saturday, a new wave of confidence seemed to follow him every time McElroy looked his way.

“I think it’s obviously a point of emphasis for us as an offense to get the ball in his hands,” McElroy said. “Last year at the beginning of the season, we struggled a little bit on getting him the ball the first few games, and things got a little bit dicey there in the middle of the season. But, I think this year we did a really good job of coming out and getting the ball in his hands early.”

Due to the lopsided victory, Jones’ day was finished well before the third quarter ended. It was still enough time for him to grab six balls for 93 yards and a touchdown.

Early in the second quarter, Jones made what he called the best in-game catch of his Alabama career. The ball a bit overthrown, he made a one-handed catch as he dove across the goal line for a 29-yard score. The touchdown extended the Tide’s lead to 28-3.

“I expect to make those plays,” Jones said. “That’s my job. I’m out there to catch the football.”

Head coach Nick Saban said, “Those types of vertical routes are the things that we’d like to really get him involved with because of his size and strength, and [he’s] difficult to defend in the deep part of the field. That’s something that we really need to improve on.”

Junior wide receiver Darius Hanks said the catch was nothing he hasn’t seen from Jones in the past.

“That’s nothing new to us,” Hanks said. “We make plays every day in practice, one-handed grabs, diving catches.

“We can do it all. I feel like we’ve got the best receiving corps in the nation.”