My esteemed colleague at ESPN.com, Edward Aschoff, has chosen Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray as the player in the SEC he would pick to build his program around?
Not a bad choice, indeed.
Murray’s a leader. He’s a tireless worker. He still has three years of eligibility remaining, and he’s the top returning quarterback in the league.
He would certainly be right at the top of my list as well. Here’s the other thing about Murray: He’ll be even better his second time through the league. He told me in March when I visited with him in Athens that he’s seeing things quicker now on the practice field than he ever did a year ago.
So, yes, Murray would be an excellent program builder.
The others I would consider strongly would be Alabama running back Trent Richardson, Alabama safety Mark Barron, South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery, Arkansas running back Knile Davis, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne and Vanderbilt linebacker Chris Marve.
Each in his own way would make sense if you had the top overall pick in the SEC.
But I’m going in another direction, one that may surprise a few people.
My choice would be Alabama junior offensive lineman Barrett Jones, an All-SEC selection at right guard last season who may end up playing left tackle for the Crimson Tide next season.
Simply, Jones is the kind of rock-solid pillar you build teams around. He’s an infectious leader, a fierce competitor, the kind of guy you want right beside you when times get tough and one of the best offensive linemen in the country.
He’s been a starter since his redshirt freshman season when he started all 14 games on Alabama’s national championship team, so he has a ton of experience. Yet, he’s also going to be around for two more years.
One of the top scholar-athletes in college football, Jones is as smart as he is talented.
You’re also talking about a guy who spends his spring breaks in Haiti helping to rebuild schools and orphanages.
You win with people and football players like Jones, and I’m one of those old-school guys who still believes you win up front, too.