If Jones can't go, Kelly is ready at center

Barrett Jones has a sprained foot and is still unable to practice with the team. Alabama's starting center said last week he will "100 percent" play in the national championship game. But if he can't, or can't sustain for 60 minutes, backup Ryan Kelly is ready to step up.

Barrett Jones limped into the interview room, his sprained foot in a cast, and plopped down on a chair in front of a slew of reporters.

"My foot is sprained," he said. "I'll be playing in the [national championship] game. I'll be fine."

This exchange with the media occurred last week. Alabama head coach Nick Saban had said that Jones, who injured his foot in the first quarter of the SEC Championship game, would not practice at all before Christmas and they'd reevaluate after the holiday break. Well it's after Christmas and Jones is still not practicing. Saban said this week that Jones, and freshman linebacker Denzel Devall (knee), have spent a little time on the treadmill, but probably won't practice again until next week when the team gets to South Florida.

"Depending on how that goes this week, then they'll probably be able to practice maybe next week," Saban said. "That's kind of the plan, but it's day-to-day because they both need to continue to make progress to be able to come back and play. We're hopeful that they get at least five practices in before the game and are able to do that and sustain that."

Jones has said he will "100 percent" play against Notre Dame. His assignment will be the matchup against the Fighting Irish's 330-pound nose tackle Louis Nix.

However, just in case he can't go or can't play the full 60 minutes, the Crimson Tide's backup center, redshirt freshman Ryan Kelly, will be ready.

"He's an exceptional young player that catches on very fast with the scheme of things," said left guard Chance Warmack. "I don't really see him as a young player. I see him as a veteran. He's keen on carrying me and taking control in terms of making the right calls, knowing the scheme, what it takes to be a starter at center on the offensive line. He's doing a really good job."

A.J. McCarron, who has become very close friends with Jones from rooming with him over the summer and obviously from the chemistry they've built as quarterback and center, was asked how practice has been without Jones.

"I told Barrett, I kind of make him mad every day, I tell him it's easier, practice is easier because I don't have to hear him talk," McCarron joked. "Nah, I definitely miss him. I like having him out there and we kind of go back and forth with each other.

"Kelly's done an excellent job. I have all the confidence in the world in Kelly. I know he can play. When he gets his time he'll be ready to play, and be ready to show what he can do."

For more Alabama coverage, follow Laken Litman on Twitter!

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