Hootie Jones thriving as vocal leader in Alabama secondaryBy Ehsan Kassim | 11/02/2017 1:24pm
Safety Hootie Jones celebrates after an interception against Colorado State.
After having a small role in his first two seasons in Tuscaloosa, defensive back Hootie Jones has grown into a team leader for the Alabama defense.
Jones mostly played special teams his first two seasons but stepped into a starting defensive back role last year for the Crimson Tide.
"He’s stepped up big,” defensive back Anthony Averett said. “We lost a couple of DBs last year, and this year, he’s stepped up into kind of a starting role. He’s stepped up big time and he’s one of the safeties who communicates across the board. He’s a very important guy to the secondary.
Jones, a senior from Monroe, Louisiana, tied a career-high six tackles against Tennessee on Oct. 21, earning special teams player of the week honors from the coaching staff.
He played in all 15 games last year, recording 20 tackles, five pass breakups and a forced fumble.
Jones has 31 total tackles on the season, which ranks fifth on the Alabama defense. He is tied for first on the team in tackles on passing plays, with 20.
For Head Coach Nick Saban, a big key to the success Jones has had has a lot to do with his confidence.
“I think that Hootie has improved every year that he's been here,” Saban said.”I think now he has a lot better confidence in what to do, how to do it, why it's important to do it that way, and I think he plays faster because of it. He's made more plays because of it. We're really pleased with the way he's progressed through his career here and the way he's performing right now for our defensive team."
Jones has one interception and a pass breakup on the season. He returned his interception for 65 yards against Colorado State, though he did not score.
“Hootie has done a marvelous job, especially this year in terms of how he's played, the consistency he's played with,” Saban said.
An important component of the Alabama defense is communication between the different levels of the defense. Jones has stepped up in leading the communication, thriving with star defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick.
“Both our safeties, other than the middle linebacker, that’s how we communicate,” Averett said. “Both me and Levi both look back and see what’s going on, what’s the play. Both those guys communicate and talk across the board, make sure they have that relationship before the game and if anything changes, adjustments, just let us know.”
Fitzpatrick, a potential first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft, complimented what Jones has done for the Crimson Tide on defense.
"He’s been doing a really good job for us,” Fitzpatrick said. “He’s become more of a leader out there. Just doing his job, doing what he’s supposed to do. Becoming more vocal and just overall improving as an athlete and as a safety."
Jones’ next big test will be against his home-state team, the LSU Tigers, on Saturday night.