The blow was something else.

The defender of Michigan and Aidan Hutchinson – all six feet tall and weighing 269 pounds – left his legs and fell on the chin and mask of Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. After 13:7 in the first half, Jones was on the ground for a fraction of a second when he intercepted the penalty shot. The team collapsed on the side of the road. The flag has been thrown. It was cruel to pass by. Alabama arrived first, but what about Jones?

He has been waiting for this moment for more than three years and has supported Tua Tagovayloa and Yelen Hearts. Tagovayloa suffered a hip injury at the end of the season, forcing Jones to start two games early. Against Michigan’s Citrus Bowl No. 14, which enters the off-season where the nation’s top double-ended quarterback will be added to the program, it was crucial for Jones to make a split – not a split of his soul leaving his body.

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But Jones came back as if nothing had happened. In fact, he seemed to have a certain acuity, an aura of definition, about him. The memorable edition 150 was partially torn and hung on the shoulder of his T-shirt. Jones looked to the side, waiting for the next call, then tore off the patch and moved into position to take the snapshot. Inside, his teammates went crazy.

The famous Mac Hereford and striker Pierce Quick were stunned. Hereford said it was like a movie, like an emotional climax, because it summed up so well who Jones is and how long he waited to show who he is. Hereford said he and Quick looked at each other on the side of the road and said: My God, this man is a warrior.

It is as if nothing stands in his way, says Hereford, who has already gone through the most difficult phases of his career.

Jones not only led the attack to a touchdown on this disc, but he also made a statement with his game to the end. The lucky man from Jacksonville, Florida, who was not considered an Alabama starter, won a decisive 35-16 victory over Michigan as captain of the Crimson Tide, throwing 327 yards and scoring three touchdowns.

That shot and the way Jones reacted to it, told Hereford everything he needed to know about his quarterback. I wonder if Jones’ day will ever come, and it finally is.

Certainly Jones told reporters in Orlando it was his team now. And who says anything else after what he just saw?

If this scene sounds familiar, it should be. A year before Jones was eliminated by Hutchinson in the Citrus Bowl, LSU’s Joe Burrow made a similar breakthrough when he was demolished by UCF linebacker Nate Evans in the first quarter of the Fiesta Bowl. Evans defeated Barrow, who was little more than a follower in the country at the time – scoring only 12 touchdowns and four interceptions in the regular season. But then something was lost in Barrow when he led LSU to a 40-32 victory and scored 394 yards and four touchdowns in his career. In hindsight, this is the beginning.

Barrow was selected in May with the first NFL general election, but his story never ceased to dominate college football. How he went from middle class quarterback to national champion and Heisman Cup-winner in one season, who couldn’t give up so fast.

As soon as he left the SMC, the search was started. Who’s the next Joe Burrow?

Fault! The file name is not specified. Mac Jones fell 2196 yards, 16 TD and 2 INT in the 2020 season. KITY MACMECKINE/US Network Working Day

For him, the question was stupid. In the 150-year history of the sport, we haven’t seen anything Barrow has done. His 60 touchdown passes broke records. In fact, he rushed to make five more touchdowns and only made six interceptions.

But the way Burrow did it made coaches, players and players believe it could happen again. The most obvious reason is the speed of Barrow’s climb, which gave the other quarterbacks hope that greatness was within reach.

How Barrow originated is less clear. Because it wasn’t the perfect hand from Burrow or any other sporting gift. Burrow certainly had a strong hand, but he wasn’t a howitzer. And he was fast, but only in the sense that he was fast enough to pass a defensive liner or linebacker. What kept Burrow apart was more like his decision. He processed the information so quickly and almost always read it correctly.

And isn’t that what every quarterback thinks he can do better? The strength of your hand can only be increased to a limited extent, and you can only get it much faster. But if you work hard enough – learn, practice, pray – you can be like Joe Barrow.

They talked about Texas Cell Mouth as someone who could make a jump like Burrows. The same goes for King D’Eric of Miami, Ian Notre Dame’s book and others. It is such a phenomenon that Bill Connally of ESPN created the so-called Barrow index.

But during the summer, few people talked about anyone, someone who quietly analysed the Barrow cuts for clues, which eventually came close to last year’s winner, Heisman. And fortunately he was in the LSU yard. Tiger fans may be all over the map, but the next Joe Burrow is a star of their most hated rival, Alabama.

Barrow could have arrived earlier if he hadn’t gone to Ohio, where he was immediately overshadowed by a stream of talented quarterbacks. First of all, it was J.T. Barrett. Then Barrett was wounded and Cardale Jones took his place. Then Barrett came back. And when Barrett finally left, Duane Haskins won the starting price. At that time Barrow, who wore a red shirt in his early teens, gave in and moved to LSU.

Jones should be nice. He was originally loyal to Kentucky and could have been a Wildcats quarterback a long time ago if Nick Saban hadn’t even flown a helicopter at the Bolles School in Jacksonville. It was hard to stop the other students when Saban landed, coach Wayne Belger remembers. Saban offered Jones a scholarship and he accepted. Not only would Jones have signed up in the same class as Tagovayloa, but he would have done so knowing that Hearts is a year ahead of him and ready to become the first rookie since Herschel Walker, who won the SEC Player of the Year award in the attack.

He wasn’t afraid of competition, Belger said. If he was afraid of the competition, he’d go to Kentucky.

Fault! The file name is not specified. Mac Jones patiently waited in the starting blocks for his chance at the Alabama start. Katie McMackin-US Network ACTIONS

Jones waited for Hearts, then Tagovayloa, and he didn’t shake so much when five-star Bryce Young arrived in early January. No one – neither the player nor the coach interviewed by ESPN – ever said they heard Jones talk about the transfer. Saban said it is rare for him to be willing to work on development instead of doing what many people do now if they don’t immediately have a positive sense of self-worth and don’t want to do anything else.

He simply never brought negative energy into this situation, Hereford said. I’ve seen a lot of people ask questions: Why the hell am I in the scouting squad? And I feel stuck there after years. Others would think the same, but not Mac Jones. I think he just had it in his head that this would happen if he kept working.

In this trust, Jones and Barrow are very much alike. They share different things. You can see it on the soccer field, whether by their playing style or by the reaction of their teammates.

Jones even has a nickname for himself: The Joker.

It started one day during Jones’ second season. He had this smile, a kind of piercing, open closure, which, according to the offensive lining Richie Petitbon, reminded him of the famous twisted Batman villain. His teammates picked him up and Jones, dressed in a Joker suit, leaned forward and came onto the football field one day.

But what started as a simple observation of a smile turned into something more when Jones got the chance to play. Just like the Joker in comic books and movies, Jones almost seemed to enjoy being hit. Then he smiled and crossed the field, tearing the heart out of defense.

Now he felt like a joker, that tough bastard, Hereford said. That’s Mac to you. He’s heterosexual.

It reminds Hereford of the city of Barrow.

He said it looked like a warpath. It is a kind of look at a man who is confident and balanced, not because of who he is, but because of the work he has done, because of the things he has experienced. In a manner of speaking: I’ve been through all this, this and that, and nothing can stop me.

To what do we owe the sudden appearance of Jones?

The answer lies, at least in part, in a game for his strike against Michigan. Before that time, when Saban talked about Jones, he often cited an obstacle the young quarterback had to overcome: himself.

Too often Jones would make mistakes and stop there, so a bad game would turn into two, three and so on. It’s not about talent for weapons or skills, Saban said, it’s about staying focused and making the right decisions without thinking too much about it.

That’s what he did in the fight against Team Auburn – Jones’ first road start, the regular championship final and the last chance to make the playoffs. He dropped pickup six and followed it with touchdowns on the next two CDs. He then threw another rush six in the third quarter – a smooth game that bounced off goal – and quickly crossed the field for another touchdown to take the initiative.

Alabama lost 48-45 on penalties, but Jones mentally proved he was ready for the spotlight and pressure. Jones got a better pass against Auburn than Burrow and a better pass against the quality of the Michigan defense than Justin Fields of Ohio.

As far as clarifying the parts of his game that need improvement is concerned, Burrow himself deserves some appreciation.

Joe Dickinson, an old quarterback coach, at the helm since the sixth minute. Working with Jones this season, Jones said he needs to study Barrow – not necessarily the LSU offensive, but Barrow himself. Look at the technical things, like Burrow’s legs, Dickinson told his student, but look at the big picture.

Like Barrow, Jones is right. They are both intelligent and have a good view of the terrain. And like Barrow, Jones has mean athletics. Dickinson said that one day he looked at Jones through a zoom lens and asked him what he was doing that you couldn’t?

While Burrow Clyde Edwards-Helair walked backwards, Jones had Naji Harris. While Burrow has Justin Jefferson and Ja’marr Chase on the receiver, Jones has DeVonte Smith and John Metchie.

Fault! The file name is not specified. DeVonte Smith and John Metchie. Give Mac Jones enough room to work. UA Athletics / Collegiate Imagery / Getty Images

Burrow was considered a gambling director until they let him go, wasn’t he? Dickinson asked. At that time he was not a game director, but director of the Heisman Trophy.

He went on to say: I wanted (Jones) to see these things because people are going to say he’s the manager of the game… So I encouraged him to look at this agreement and ask: Where can I make my jump?

The SEC coach said that while there’s a lot of talent around Jones in Alabama, the quarterback himself is very talented. The coach, who spoke to ESPN on condition of anonymity, said that Jones can make all the shots; he understands the rubbers; he doesn’t panic under pressure; he knows how to handle the bags; he’s mobile; and instead of waiting for the receivers to open, he anticipates them and throws them.

When asked whether Jones reminded him of someone, the coach had trouble making a comparison. Then he added, but I see similarities between him and Joe.

After six games in the season, Jones made the jump into another stratosphere. He’s gone from incredibly popular to incredibly popular. He scored 16 touchdowns and only two interceptions, and he’s second in the CBI country. After Mel Keeper Jr. joined the Grand Board and was not mentioned in the Kiper Quarterback standings, Jones is now in 24th place in the general classification and is on track to win the first round of the race.

Not only is he now one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC and leading Alabama to an undefeated season, but he’s also second behind Florida’s Kyle Trask in the final ESPN investigation for the Heisman Trophy.

His next stop is a home game against Kentucky, where he could go to college for good.

Kentucky coach Mark Stupps said Monday that Alabama has as good an offense as he has seen in his 18-year career as coach or defense coordinator. He adds that Mac plays at a very high level.

Although Jones has received his share of criticism for giving up his involvement with Alabama, it is likely that Wildcat fans have little respect for what he has become. Jones wants to quit Lexington now. Seeing him succeed, Mr. Stupps said, is a confirmation of what they saw when they hired him all those years ago.

He may not be exactly Joe Burrow – we’ll never see another player do what he did – but Jones is the best example of how fast a quarterback can improve when he gets the chance.

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