Former Alabama center William Vlachos recently spent time with TideNation's Alex Scarborough to discuss how he's doing with the Tennessee Titans, how Alabama prepared him for the NFL, and what to expect from Barrett Jones' move to center.
Scarborough: How is preseason camp going?
Vlachos: It's going well. Coming from Coach Saban's program, it prepares you to give that little bit extra for that jump to the NFL. I think the two biggest things it's done in helping me prepare me for this is, one, the structure of the program and the actual description of what we did is very similar to the things we do now here. So obviously I think Coach Saban set up a pro system. And the second thing is the Xs and Os. The schematic approach of offense and defense is very professional-like. The offense we run here isn't identical but it's extremely similar, especially relative to concepts. That prepared me, obviously, for making the transition mentally.
Scarborough: The transition must have helped coming from the SEC.
Vlachos: Exactly. That certainly helps. The SEC is known for defense and exceptional personnel, and certainly defensive linemen. I think if you follow the draft and if you follow NFL teams, the last couple of years their fronts usually have an SEC guy on it. I know there are two guys from Auburn on the Titans right now that I practice against everyday that I played against in college. That certainly, from a physical standpoint, going against some of the people I played in college, that definitely makes the transition not as hectic, I guess.
Scarborough: Have you and Barrett Jones talked about what he's going through right now, learning a new position?
Vlachos: Me and Barrett talk all the time. ... They wouldn't have made that move if he wasn't capable of doing a great job. He's not the only center in Tuscaloosa right now. There are other people who can play there. Really, it was a no-brainer for the coaching staff. As soon as I departed, it was kind of understood that he was going to step into that role. He's going to flourish at that spot, just like he has at every spot he's played in his career. From a physical standpoint, if you can play left tackle in the SEC, you can certainly play center. Then mentally, I think that's the biggest jump. There's not a better guy in the world to handle that than Barrett.
Scarborough: Were you surprised when he told you he was changing positions?
Vlachos: I wouldn't say I was a surprised. He got reps at center every week last year. At some point during the team period I would sit out a series and he would go in for my series, just to get some snaps in case. He was the backup center last year. … I think it was kind of expected.
Scarborough: How do you think Barrett will do?
Vlachos: Barrett has seen it all. He's not a 700-pound squatter or bench-presser. He's not going to run a 4.6 40-yard dash. He's not the most explosive guy in the world, I think he'd be the first one to tell you that. But, I think what makes him a great player is that he knows his limitations and he never lets himself get exposed. He's always outthinking his opponent. He's always locked into the game plan and he's always ready to play.
Scarborough: Is he just built to play that position because of his intelligence?
Vlachos: Center is a position that covets the intangibles. I'm barely over 6-feet tall and I was able to play a long time there in the SEC and had a lot of success. If you look at the center position in the NFL, there are a lot of guys that were late draft picks or undrafted or don't have the prototypical measureables because it's a position that covets the intangibles. Barrett has all the intangibles. I certainly think the best teacher on the offensive line is experience, and he obviously has worlds of that. I don't know if center is his natural position, but I think he's extremely equipped to have success there.
Scarborough: Were you at all surprised he didn't consider the NFL a little bit more and did come back?
Vlachos: I know what's important to him. ... At Alabama, he has a ton of friends and a lot going on. He's obviously done some very prestigious things academically. He's got it going on down there. But also, he's smart. He has a lot of connections relative to the next level and what the word was. I think versatility is of the essence in the NFL. ... You put on two tapes of guard, he's got an Outland Trophy sitting in his bedroom for playing left tackle. He can come to center and add to his success. It's only going to help. I'm playing right guard in camp. I'm not a right guard, I'm a center. But you have to be versatile.
Scarborough: I didn't know you were playing guard. How is it coming along?
Vlachos: I'm not playing guard exclusively. Mentally, I've been able to handle it. Physically, I'm certainly not used to it. I haven't done it in a very long time. But at the end of the day, it's about getting in front of the guy and getting him blocked. It certainly hasn't been pretty over here, but I've been doing the best I can to get it done.