October 19, 2007

Huber changes Fall colors

Baron Huber knows what it's like to change colors in football.

When he chose the Crimson Tide, his grandmother got rid of the family's Tennessee gear in yard sale, and the Knoxville, Tenn., native hasn't looked back since.

But he knew what to expect, because he'd already seen the movie.

Tennessee at Alabama
When: Saturday, 11:30 a.m. (CST)
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa
Records: Alabama (5-2, 3-1 SEC); Tennessee (4-2, 2-1 SEC)
The line: Pick 'em.
Television: Lincoln-Financial Sports.

The spring before Huber's senior year in high school, the two-way prep standout transferred from Knoxville Central to archrival Powell High in a move that warmed a few collars at Central. In his comments on facing the Tennessee Volunteers Saturday (11:30 a.m. CST, Lincoln-Financial Sports), the irony was not lost on Huber.

"That's what helped me with the situation I'm in now because I transferred to a rival high school," said the 240-pound fullback. "That was a decision I made with my family and obviously it's helped me be a lot more successful in my career past high school."

Even in being welcomed at a new high school, where he made more than 100 tackles as a senior linebacker, his commitment to Alabama was a source of friction. The day former UA coach Mike Shula came to visit Huber at school, the faculty wore orange. The day he signed, Huber said, Powell's principal had the signing table covered with a Tennessee table cloth. And his friends? They rode him constantly.

Asked what it must have been like for Huber, UA linebacker Darren Mustin, also a Tennessee native, put it best: "You have to understand, everywhere you go in Tennessee, it's either orange, or it's orange."

But his visit to Alabama combined with a strong recruiting effort by Shula and former assistant Sparky Woods was enough to turn this former Tennessee fan, who was recruited only lightly by the Volunteers. Huber said he and his parents, while UT fans, weren't die-hards who couldn't be open to other possibilities.

"Once they came down and saw it, they said 'You'd be crazy not to go here'," Huber said of his parents.

Playing time at the Capstone has been limited for Huber early in his career. He was in a good offense for a fullback under Shula, but was stuck behind future NFL Draft pick LeRon McClain. When McClain moved on to the Baltimore Ravens, Huber found himself the obvious successor only to witness a coaching change that resulted in a near-removal of the fullback position from the Crimson Tide offense.

With a base set of three receivers, Huber has seen more action on special teams than anything. Still, his sense of humor embraces the role.

"I always joke with them about that when we get the game plan. I tell them there must be a typo there because I'm not getting the ball," Huber said with a laugh. "But I chose this position and [blocking is] what I'm supposed to do."

Last week against Ole Miss, however, Alabama employed a two-back set more regularly than at anytime this season, and Huber responded with several impressive blocks in his most extensive action of the season.

"We did use a little more two-back in this game than we have been using," said coach Nick Saban, "and he did a really nice job of blocking in the game."

Entering a home-state match-up with Tennessee, Huber can only hope it was enough to keep the two-back offense on the field.

"He's from Knoxville, so I know he want to beat these guys more than anybody," said quarterback John Parker Wilson. "I know he's fired up."

Still, it would be nice to touch the football just once Saturday afternoon.

"He told me to check one off to [him], but we don't have one," Wilson said with a laugh. "We don't have a check to him, but maybe we'll see what we can do about that."

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