Bama's Julio Jones poised for best year yet

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama junior receiver Julio Jones says he’s bigger, stronger and faster.

Better yet, he also says he’s completely healthy for the first time in a while.

“Without a doubt, I think this will be my best season, and it should be,” Jones said. “I think it will be for the entire offense. The sky’s the limit.”

When the 6-4 Jones says he’s bigger, he means it. He’s up to 220 pounds and has bulked up noticeably in the upper body. He said he actually got up to 228 earlier in the offseason.

“But I feel good. I’m not fatigued and feel like I’ve gained speed because I’m healthy now,” Jones said. “They gave me a body fat test recently, and I only had 4 percent body fat.”

Jones’ receiving numbers dropped off some last season after a sensational freshman season. He suffered a knee injury in the second game that plagued him the whole first half of the season. He couldn’t cut the way he wanted to, couldn’t get in and out of his routes the way he wanted to and admits he had trouble getting open at times.

As it turns out, Jones said another one of his problems last season was that he didn’t have the strength he needed to fight off defenders, which was his forte as a freshman.

Because of his mounting injuries as a freshman, Jones said he went the rest of that year without doing any bench-pressing or squats in the weight room and didn’t start back on the bench until this past January.

Following his freshman season, he underwent three different surgical procedures on his left wrist, his left shoulder and one for a sports hernia.

While rehabilitating, he wasn’t able to immerse himself in the weight room like he wanted to.

“I was only doing 95 pounds on the bench when I started back in the Fourth Quarter program this year,” Jones said. “I was struggling to get that up because of my shoulder.”

It didn’t take Jones long, though, to regain his strength. And when he did, his numbers soared.

Just prior to the start of spring practice earlier this month, he maxed out at 405 pounds on the bench press and can tell a huge difference now on the practice field, which probably isn’t good news for opposing cornerbacks in the SEC next season.

One of the refreshing things about Jones is that his approach never wavered last season just because his production dropped off some. Defenses were shadowing his every move, and his teammates knew he wasn’t close to 100 percent.

And when Alabama really needed him, he was there. Remember his catches in the game-winning drive against Auburn? And what about the 73-yard touchdown against LSU that turned that game around?

Moreover, his intensity on the practice field never waned, and he was the ultimate team guy.

“I just want to make everybody match my intensity and go out there with a positive attitude every day and let it rub off on them,” Jones said. “Everything I do, I take a lot of pride in. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing. That’s just the way I was raised.”

Alabama coach Nick Saban joked with local reporters last week that he might move Jones over to safety to help his young secondary.

“Put me at safety, and I’ll play it to the best of my ability. They can put me at tackle,” said Jones, his smile widening. “I’ll be ready for that, too.”

Well, maybe not, but here’s betting you see the version of Jones in 2010 that you saw as a freshman.

“All I can go by is how I feel out there on the practice field, and I feel great right now,” said Jones, who definitely has spring fever.

He was sporting an electric blue Polo shirt Wednesday with some Bermuda shorts that featured a little yellow, a little red, a little orange and a little blue.

And his shoes?

A pair of electric blue PF Flyers high-top canvas sneakers.

Saban took one look at him and cracked, “Do you know where I can find an outfit like that for me?”