We are less than a week away from No. 2 Alabama squaring off against No. 1 Notre Dame in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game, and one key member of the Crimson Tide is still nursing an injury.
Center Barrett Jones, a finalist for this season's Outland Trophy and winner of the prestigious award as a tackle last season, practiced on Tuesday for the first time since suffering a sprained foot in Alabama's 32-28 SEC championship game win over Georgia on Dec. 1, according to CollegeFootballTalk.com.
Jones had missed all of Alabama's previous bowl practices and has been walking around in a boot for the majority of the month of December.
His health is critical for the Crimson Tide, which will need the consensus All-American to be at full strength when toe meets leather on Jan. 7 at Sun Life Stadium.
Alabama's offensive line is widely regarded as being one of the most talented units in the country, and Jones is a big reason why.
The primary reason that Alabama is on the brink of a modern-day dynasty is because it has successfully been able to run the football even when the opposing defense knows what's coming. In the second half of the SEC championship game, the Crimson Tide gave Georgia a heavy dose of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon, and there was nothing that the Bulldogs could do about it.
Jones is the centerpiece of that line, is able to win at the point of attack one-on-one and ensures that the Tide is in the right protection scheme at the line of scrimmage.
Against a team like Notre Dame, which likes to get creative with its blitz packages, he will be an enormous asset as the quarterback of the line of scrimmage.
Fighting Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco will have had a month to figure out the puzzle that is the Alabama O-line, and Jones, who has also played guard and tackle during his career, provides a veteran presence in the center of the line.
Will Jones be at 100 percent? Hitting the practice field less than a week before the title game certainly is cutting it close.
If it looks like he's favoring that foot early on, it could play a huge role in the outcome of the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.