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The Alabama X-Factor: A Look at Javier Arenas

Jonathan Fravel@jfravel135Senior Analyst IDecember 4, 2009

Incredible versatility. Those two words best describe the Alabama senior Javier Arenas.

The value of this player to the Alabama team cannot be measured. His skill at the cornerback position, his speed, quickness, and agility as a return specialist elicit fear and trepidation in any opponent. He is a complete player.

Mike Shula once commented that he had met Javier as a young high school player while he worked for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"Javier would hang out at the practice facility to see what it was like to be a professional athlete. He was a gym rat."

Javier Arenas was recruited out of Robinson High School in Tampa, Florida by Dave Ungerer. Arenas was so excited to get the offer on the week before his official visit that he could not contain his enthusiasm. In response to the offer, Javy committed to the Tide before he actually set foot on campus.

Reading his comments at the time of his commitment, one can see through the excitement and realize the maturity possessed by the young recruit.

Rivals recruiting analyst Tim Watts recorded these comments:

"I've seen Alabama on television, and their crowd is wild. I love the atmosphere and the stadium. It looks exciting to play in," he said. "This weekend I just want to get familiar with the players, coaches, and campus. It's going to be great getting to meet everyone."

"I know Alabama is strong academically, and I'll get to meet my tutors and teachers this weekend. I'm expecting everything to be great."

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Quotes from his high school coach Mike Depue foretold the value this player would have for the school that placed their confidence in the versatile athlete:

"To the best of my knowledge, he's never been to Alabama, but he's excited about the opportunity to meet the staff and see the school."

Depue utilized Arenas' talents at several positions, and he was Robinson's main threat when the Knights needed a quick score.

"Javier knows how to get in the end zone and get there in a hurry," Depue said. "He can turn around a game very quickly."

"I've been waiting for someone to take notice of Javier. He's a terrific player and is a full qualifier; just a great kid. I don't know what he is going to do, but Alabama has made a strong late push and he would be a great pick-up for them."

You knew this kid was excited to be a player for the Crimson Tide, but his finishing comments reminded the astute listener that Javier Arenas was concerned about his welfare and education, as well.

He has thrived in both aspects of his life. Javier Arenas is a record-setting punt and kick returner, a feared cover corner and vicious pass rusher. He is scheduled to graduate on time this May. He has never been a part of the controversy that rippled through the program in his first years at the Capstone.

On the departure of likable coach and mentor, Mike Shula, and arrival of the Saban staff, there was pause and concern for his future. For a moment, he was unsure if he could measure up to the expectations of the new head coach.

Arenas did consider leaving Alabama, but Saban convinced him to stay and give his best effort. Saban gave no guarantees, but Arenas knew that he would at least have a chance to compete for a starting position.

2006 Kickoff and Punt Returner

Arenas had immediate impact on the gridiron in his Freshman year. As top kickoff and punt returner for the Crimson Tide, he saw action in all 13 games. He finished his freshman year with 18 kick returns for 313 yards, 31 punt returns for 286 yards, and scored two touchdowns.

Against Florida International, the school he had originally committed to prior to the Alabama visit, the young freshman had a 65 yard punt return for a score. He finished the game with 81 yards on five returns and was named Special Teams Player of the Week for his effort.

His second score of the year came in the season finale against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Arenas returned a punt 86 yards for a score, setting the Alabama record for longest punt return in a bowl game, also setting the record for the Independence Bowl.

2007 Return man and back up Defensive Back

Arenas showed remarkable improvement in his sophomore year at the Capstone.

As a punt returner, Arenas set the second-best single-season mark in UA history. On 21 punts, he gained 323 yards for a 15.4 yard average. His effort was 2nd best in the SEC and 12th ranked, nationally.

On kickoffs, he returned the ball 27 times for 657 yards on the year, again, ranking 2nd best in UA history.

His best effort on the year came against the eventual national champion, LSU Tigers, when he raced for 237 all-purpose yards on eight kickoffs and three punts. The last punt return of the game was for 61 yards, late in the fourth quarter and gave the Tide a seven-point lead.

He also played in the secondary during his sophomore year, recording 20 tackles, two tackles for loss, and a pass breakup. Four of those tackles came against the LSU Tigers, one for a loss and one pass breakup.

Unfortunately, for Javier, the most memorable play for him is the one in which he was caught out of position. With just over three minutes remaining, and Alabama with the lead, the Tigers faced 4th-and-4 on the 'Bama 32-yard line.

Arenas made his read before the ball was snapped then moved closer to the line to fake a blitz. In that moment, the ball was snapped. Early Doucet, lined up as the left side flanker, cut over the middle where the young defender should have been standing.

Quarterback Matt Flynn tossed a quick slant pass to Doucet, who shook off the recovering Arenas, juked the safety and went in for the score. Saban was livid and let Arenas know it when he returned to the sidelines.

It is a play he goes over and over in his mind, in an attempt to remind himself to be more aware of his timing and position on every play.

Despite having a career game against the eventual national champion, he could not take pride in his performance. His team did not win the game, and he placed blame on himself for the loss.

2008 Dangerous Returner and Starting Cornerback

As a junior, Javier Arenas established a position as a starter in the defensive back field and reeked havoc on SEC quarterbacks and receivers. He had 63 tackles, three tackles for loss, and two sacks.

On defense, Arenas returned one interception for a score on a 63-yard scamper against the Arkansas Razorbacks. In addition, he had eight passes defended and seven pass breakups.

He ranked 6th nationally and second in the SEC as a return specialist. With his 650 yards on 41 punt returns, he led the nation in this category and set a new single-season record for the Crimson Tide.

Arenas recorded three touchdowns on punt returns of 87, 80, and 73 yards, yielding six in his career—another milestone at the Capstone.

For his efforts in 2008, Arenas was recognized as Second-Team All-American as a punt returner, Second-Team All-SEC as a returner and cornerback, and two-time SEC Special Teams Player of the Week.

The Alabama staff recognized his contributions as player of the week (two defensive, two special teams), received the President's Award (perseverance and outstanding contributions to the teams success), and earned the team's Special Teams Player of the Year.

2009 Feared and Respected Return Man and Cornerback

In the current season, Arenas has played in 11 of the 12 games, missing the South Carolina game with a bruised rib.

On the year, he has recorded 42 tackles, 22 assists for a total of 64 takedowns. He has five sacks (53 yards for loss), two interceptions, four pass breakups, and four quarterback hurries.

Arenas is second on the team for all-purpose yards, behind Heisman candidate Mark Ingram. He has been credited with 466 yards in punt returns, 472 yards in kick returns, and a 22-yard interception return for a total of 960 yards on the year.

Against the Auburn Tigers, Arenas broke the SEC record for career punt return yards. The record was held for 60 years.

The record, for now, is standing at 1,725 yards with two games left to play. He needs 37 yards in the two remaining games to break the NCAA record held by Texas Tech's Wesley Welker (2000-2003).

Against UT-Chattanooga, he became the SEC career leader in punt returns for touchdowns (seven) on a 66-yard return for score.

He is a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award

Midseason All-SEC selection by Phil Steele at cornerback and returner

Second-Team midseason All-American cornerback by SI.com

AFCA All-American Team (names released this week)

Second on team in Tackles (64) and Sacks (five)

Shares the team Lead in Tackles for Loss (12)

Arenas is a complete player and team leader. He is a threat on special teams and as a defender.

Florida will have much to contend with when Javier Arenas is on the field.

This is his last chance for an SEC championship and shot at the national title.

He is healthy, prepared and willingly commits his gifts and skills to the Crimson Tide.

Along with senior defensemen Justin Woodall, Terrance Cody, Brandon Deaderick, Cory Reamer, and Lorenzo Washington, this team is ready to take the title from the Florida Gators.

That chance comes in less than 24 hours.

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