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The Saban Top 100: No. 20 Mark Barron

The Saban Top 100: No. 20 Mark Barron

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The Saban Top 100: No. 20 Mark Barron

BamaCentral is ranking the top 100 players of the Nick Saban era at Alabama over the course of the 2020 football season

20] Mark Barron, S

  • 2010 All-American; 2011 Unanimous All-American
  • 2009-11 All-SEC
  • Seventh-overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft
  • Was so versatile the high-profile prospect was recruited as a linebacker, running back, receiver and tight end in addition to defensive back
  • Became a starter a sophomore in 2009 and led the SEC with seven interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. Was second in team tackles with 74
  • The only returning starter in the 2010 secondary had 77 tackles and three interceptions
  • Finished career with 237 tackles, including 13 for a loss and five sacks, 12 interceptions, 22 passes broken up and 34 passes defended
  • Twice named team captain

Imagine for a moment what it was like for Alabama junior safety Mark Barron during the first spring practices in 2010.

He looked one way and there was no Javier Arenas. Wearing No. 28 was DeMarcus Milliner.

He turned the other direction and Kareem Jackson was gone, too. The only No. 3 on the team was running back Trent Richardson.

There was no Justin Woodall at the other safety spot, his No. 27 would be issued to incoming freshman Nick Perry. Marquis Johnson, Ali Sharrief, Tyrone King Jr. and Chris Rogers had all moved on as well, with Robby Green facing a year-long suspension.

Yeah, things were different … really different, with the Mobile native going from feeling like the new guy of a top-notch secondary to essentially the only returning player from the two-deep depth chart, and everyone looking to him.

“When you’re out there with guys like Rolando (McClain), and what he was, and Justin Woodall, Rashad Johnson, people like that, you don’t really have to be that vocal because those other guys are the leaders,” sophomore defensive end Damion Square said. “So you kind of take that back seat, this is what’s going on and observe because one day you’ll have to be more vocal.

“Mark is the kind of guy he doesn’t talk a lot but if he opens his mouth it’s important so you might want to listen.”

A perfect example was during the filming of ESPN’s “Training Day: Rolling with the Tide” preseason special. Ask an Alabama fan if he or she remembers anything Barron did on the show you might get a blank look. But they all remember the closing line when he said the best thing about being at Alabama was “Winning.”

Thus, the biggest challenge moving forward for Barron, the hard-hitting safety who could play with a linebacker mentality, had more to do with leadership than anything else.

“I had to do a few things different in terms of helping more people and communicating,” he said. “It wasn’t too hard for me. It’s not like I didn’t know what to do or what to tell them. Instead of just having it in my head I had to tell them.”

A glance at the roster helps demonstrate the impact he had. The closest thing Barron had to a familiar face among the expected starters was sophomore Dre Kirkpatrick, who played in 12 games the previous season as a reserve and made eight tackles, six on special teams. The next most-experienced player was sophomore free safety Robert Lester, with eight games.

“I don’t know exactly what it was that motivated him, but I could kind of tell in practice last year that he was picking it up and playing a little bit different, a little harder,” Barron said about Lester.

Everyone else was brand new to both the Capstone and Nick Saban’s complex scheme, if not college football as a whole. Milliner was a true freshman and junior-college transfer DeQuan Menzie tore his Achilles while playing basketball but still somehow reported for fall camp.

Will Lowery, a walk-on, and LSU transfer Phelon Jones stepped up, while true freshman John Fulton became a reserve and special-teams regular. Perry and Jarrick Williams helped fill out the depth chart.

The players they replaced, which included an All-American and a first-round draft pick, had combined for 109 starts and during the national championship run tallied 284 tackles, including 20 for a loss and 6½ sacks, 12 interceptions, 47 passes broken up and 10 quarterback hurries.

Yet Alabama came out of its bye week at the end of October tied for third in the nation with 15 interceptions, five by Lester.

“After they got a couple of games under their belt they started figuring out how things were working, how things go in a game, communications and signals,” Barron said. “You can’t really help much because of the crowd and fans. After a few games they learned.”

Teammates, though, said Barron was being modest.

“He means a lot (to us),” Jones said. “Mark is basically the brains of the secondary. If anyone doesn’t know what to do or they come out in a formation we haven’t practiced everyone will look to Mark. He tells us something to play and we’ll correct it on the sideline if we have to.”

Another area it’s showed up was in explosive plays allowed. Coach Nick Saban defined one as a pass 17 yards or more (13 for a run), and after Alabama gave up six to Penn State and nine to Arkansas, there was a steady drop of five against Florida, three to South Carolina, zero by Ole Miss and two against Tennessee.

It was evidence of the unit growing and maturing together.

“Mark’s a really good, a quiet guy, but a leader in his own way,” Saban said. “He’s one of those guys who sort of speaks softly but carries a big stick. He’s really respected by his peers and his teammates. In his own is a very good leader, is a good person and has played some outstanding football here for us.

“Last year he had a phenomenal year as well as this year. He’s one of the leaders on our team in terms of production points, making plays and doing the right things. It’s important to him, he pays attention and he’s really one of those guys who does everything he can do to help our team be all that it can be.”

As a sophomore in 2009, Barron finished second in team tackles with 76 (behind McClain’s 101) and also led the Southeastern Conference with seven interceptions to be named a third-team All-American by the Associated Press. He considered Mississippi State his best game, where he had two picks.

By his junior year, most opponents were going away from Barron.

“I was talking at dinner last night, me and (center William) Vlachos, and we were talking about how good Mark really is,” starting quarterback Greg McElroy said. “I think a lot of people think of him as a playmaker, a guy who’s just so great in coverage, but one thing he does is just (make) reads has such great instincts. He can be disruptive on his blitzes because he has great timing and he understands defenses and the weaknesses of offenses in certain protections.

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“He does such a great job for our defense.”

Going back to the spring of 2010, Barron won the team’s Lee Roy Jordan Headhunter Award which in its 40-year history had only gone to seven other defensive backs, a couple of which were safeties.

When asked which gave him more pride, knocking an opponent into next week or making a big interception, Barron paused and had the think for a moment, but eventually gave the answer that most would expect.

“I like picks too, but I like to hit,” he said. 


The Saban Top 100 will be revealed over the course of the 2020 football season, with the top players unveiled one a day as part of BamaCentral's 25 Days of Christmas celebration.

The series thus far:

Introduction

No. 21: Jonah Williams

No. 22: Da'Ron Payne

No. 23: Ryan Kelly

No. 24: Landon Collins

No. 25: Cam Robinson

26-30: Terrence Cody, Calvin Ridley, Javier Arenas, Reggie Ragland, Jedrick Wills Jr.

31-35: Dee Milliner, D.J. Fluker, Marlon Humphrey, Rashad Evans, A'Shawn Robinson

36-40: Rashaan Evans, Dre Kirkpatrick, Marcell Dareus, Eddie Jackson, O.J. Howard

41-45: Courtney Upshaw, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Henry Ruggs III, Jarran Reed, Xavier McKinney

46-50: Dalvin Tomlinson, Antoine Caldwell, Kareem Jackson, Cyrus Kouandjio, Trevon Diggs

51-55: Mike Johnson, T.J. Yeldon, Ronnie Harrison, Damien Harris, JK Scott

56-60: Ross Pierschbacher, Eddie Lacy, Bradley Bozeman, Ryan Anderson, Glen Coffee

61-65: Greg McElroy, Josh Jacobs, Anfernee Jennings, James Carpenter, Kenyan Drake

66-70: Terrell Lewis, Blake Sims, Christian Miller, Irv Smith Jr,, Tim Williams

71-75: Mack Wilson, ArDarius Stewart, Deionte Thompson, Raekwon Davis, Jalston Fowler

76-80: Josh Chapman, Cyrus Jones, Kevin Norwood, Isaiah Buggs, Jake Coker

81-85: Bo Scarbrough, Anthony Averett, Leigh Tiffin, Ed Stinson, DeQuan Menzie

86-90: Jesse Williams, Shaun Dion Hamilton, William Vlachos, Da'Shawn Hand, Arie Kouandjio

91-95: Nico Johnson, Wallace Gilberry, DJ Hall, Vinnie Sunseri, Quinton Dial

96-100: Trey DePriest, Damion Square, Christion Jones, John Parker Wilson, Simeon Castille 

20] Mark Barron, S

  • 2010 All-American; 2011 Unanimous All-American
  • 2009-11 All-SEC
  • Seventh-overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft
  • Was so versatile the high-profile prospect was recruited as a linebacker, running back, receiver and tight end in addition to defensive back
  • Became a starter a sophomore in 2009 and led the SEC with seven interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. Was second in team tackles with 74
  • The only returning starter in the 2010 secondary had 77 tackles and three interceptions
  • Finished career with 237 tackles, including 13 for a loss and five sacks, 12 interceptions, 22 passes broken up and 34 passes defended
  • Twice named team captain
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