Jones brings 'little man attitude,' big plays to No. 2 Bama

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Cyrus Jones can be easy to overlook behind all those bulky run-stoppers and pass rushers on Alabama's defense.

The slightly undersized cornerback and return man, who admits teammates think he has a case of ''little man syndrome,'' is doing pretty well himself. He's just been more noticeable lately.

Jones has returned three punts for touchdowns in the past two games while flashing moves befitting a former wide receiver for the second-ranked Crimson Tide, which moved up a spot in Sunday's Associated Press poll. He had a 43-yarder and a 72-yarder in Saturday's 56-6 win over Charleston Southern that set the stage for the Iron Bowl at Auburn.

No other Alabama player has scored on punt returns two games in a row or twice in a game, according to school records dating back to 1944.

''It's amazing the plays he makes,'' Tide quarterback Jake Coker said after the game. ''I guess we take it for granted sometimes, but he's just an unbelievable athlete.''

The 5-foot-10, 196-pound Jones has been a steady defender while fellow defensive backs Minkah Fitzpatrick and Eddie Jackson were each collecting a couple of interception returns for touchdowns.

Jones, the team's most experienced defensive back, has gotten into the scoring act lately on special teams. His feisty personality might rub off on a secondary that features a freshman (Fitzpatrick), two safeties playing new positions (Jackson and Geno Matias-Smith) and other youngsters in significant roles.

''They say I've got little man syndrome, just kind of because of my demeanor and how I approach things,'' Jones said last week. ''I'm just trying to be physical regardless of my size. I don't back down from people. I guess it is carrying over to the rest of the secondary.''

Jones and the other DBs have been overshadowed by a front seven that might be the best in college football. The Tide also ranks sixth nationally in pass efficiency defense, aided of course by Alabama's best pass rush in years.

Saturday was Jones's day.

He also sniffed out an option pitch and returned it 18 yards to Charleston Southern's 6-yard line. It left the senior savoring the performance in his final game at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

''I think it was just one of those games where you feel it,'' Jones said afterward. ''I think every player has had that moment in their careers, where you just feel like it's on that day and that play. In basketball you see players a lot, kind of like streaky shooters.

''They hit one, they see one go in and they keep on shooting. They feel as though they can't miss. Definitely kind of had that feeling a little bit.''

Jones has thrived since moving to coach/secondary specialist Nick Saban's side of the ball.

He played a small role in the offense as a freshman before switching to cornerback, starting five games in 2013 and keeping a stranglehold on the job since while the other cornerback spot has been more of a revolving door.

Teammates say the plays Jones has made returning punts lately are nothing they haven't seen in practice. Jones said he's constantly imploring offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin to ''put me on offense.''

He's not expecting it to happen but Coker wouldn't mind having him as a target.

''I'd take it,'' the quarterback said. ''If they gave him to me, you wouldn't find me complaining.''

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AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org

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