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Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Safety help starts with Hampton, Jones

By Greg Ostendorf

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- When ESPN 300 safeties C.J. Hampton (Meridian, Miss./Meridian) and Laurence 'Hootie' Jones (Monroe, La./Neville) competed at Alabama’s camp last month, it was no accident that the two were placed on the same 7-on-7 team or that they worked out back-to-back in the same drills. They were around each other all week.

The UA staff strategically placed the two prospects together to form a bond that could potentially lead to a package deal for the Crimson Tide. And why not? The two are perfect complements to one another in the secondary.

“Hootie, he’s more of a strong safety,” Hampton said. “I’m more of a free safety. Hootie’s more of the come-downhill-smash type. I’m more of the rangy, cover guy. I can match up with a lot of the guys on the field.”

Laurence Jones
Alabama had 'Hootie' Jones (pictured) working with Ole Miss safety commit C.J. Hampton at its camp.
Added Jones, “He was like the quick kind of safety, and I was like the bigger safety. I just like playing with him. He was quick. That’s probably one of the things that stood out the most.”

It won’t be easy for Alabama to land either prospect, though. Hampton is already committed to Ole Miss, as he made his decision over a year ago. Jones is from Louisiana and has developed a strong affinity for LSU and its coaches. But it’s clear they’re both interested in the Tide.

When the duo went to meet with UA head coach Nick Saban after the camp, they sat in his office together, not individually.

“Both of us sat in the office together and talked to him,” Jones said. “He was talking to us about playing with each other, if we really wanted to play with each other. He was just saying how we could develop and get the chemistry together.”

The two might not start together from day one, but Saban made it clear to both players that they could see the field early on if they work hard.

“He told us we’ll still be in the rotation because no SEC safety is going to play every snap,” Hampton said.

On the field, Saban wasn’t as cordial to the two ESPN 300 safeties. He paid special attention to the duo all week, giving them extra attention, but he also wasn’t afraid to get on them if they didn’t perform up to expectations.

“He was telling us what we were doing wrong and stuff like that,” Jones said. “Mainly he was just playing around with us. I guess because we’re used to each other. He’ll still chew you out. He’ll chew you out if you mess up.”

“He was kind of on us at the end, the last day, because we lost in the championship,” Hampton added.

For now, Hampton remains committed to Ole Miss, and Jones is still exploring all of his options. But since the camp, the two have stayed close. They text periodically, and although they just missed each other, they both made an appearance in Tuscaloosa for the Tide’s July camp.

For Alabama, landing the duo would be a huge coup for its 2014 class. The staff failed to sign a single safety in last year’s class, which made the position a priority for this year. They still have plenty of young talent on campus and a veteran of sorts in walk-on Jai Miller, but they would love to find a safety combination for the future.

The options don’t stop at Hampton and Jones either.

At the first camp, Alabama also worked out ESPN 300 recruit Ronnie Clark (Calera, Ala./Calera) at safety and liked what they saw. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Clark went through all the drills and the 7-on-7 competition, exceeding expectations.

“They thought I did good,” Clark said after the camp. “They thought I picked up everything pretty quickly. They worked on my footwork, twisting my hips, turning my hips and stuff like that. They thought I did a real good job with that. Overall, they think I can play the position.”

Clark is leaning toward Alabama as of now, but Auburn is making a hard push for the in-state prospect. He visited The Plains over the weekend.

ESPN 300 athlete Davion Hall (Texarkana, Ark./Liberty-Eylau) is another option at safety for the Tide. The current Baylor commit plays all over the field for his high school team, but the UA staff likes him at either safety or wide receiver if he decides to flip. Hall visited Tuscaloosa for the first time earlier this month.

Alabama currently has a commitment from four-star safety Chris Williams (Kingsland, Ga./Camden County), who made his decision in March.

Before Williams, the most recent safety to sign with the Tide was five-star Landon Collins in 2012. He was the only one in his class. This year, the staff could add three, if not four, at the position, but it all starts with Hampton and Jones.