As a non-scholarship member of the scout team last fall, Jones did not work closely with Saban.
The emphasis is mine, but you should zero in on that particular portion. Many expected all along that Jones was not on scholarship at Alabama last year simply because we didn't have room under the limit of 85 scholarships to add him, but this is the first time that we have ever seen it explicitly stated. And while that may initially seem to be a moot point to anyone aside from whoever wrote Phelon's tuition checks last year, keep in mind the point that RBR reader zeke2029 made yesterday in the comments with regard to his much-discussed release from LSU a year ago:
When you're not granted a release doesn’t that just mean you can’t be on scholarship the next year? The article indicates that he wasn’t on scholarship last year anyway.
He's absolutely right. Getting a release to transfer from your previous school only impacts your eligibility to immediately go on scholarship at the school you are transferring to. Put simply, if you are granted a release to the school you ultimately transfer to, you can go on scholarship there immediately, but if you are not granted a release to that school, you must pay your own way for one year before going on scholarship. A release has absolutely no impact whatsoever on where you can transfer -- players can transfer whenever and wherever they want -- and it only impacts whether or not you will be forced to pay your own way.
Now, the decision of Les Miles to release Phelon to not just an SEC West rival, but to Alabama of all SEC West schools, has always been particularly hard to understand. Jones may be no superstar, but it's hard to see him not at least providing some quality depth, and it really never made any rational sense as to why he would provide a hated rival with a valuable asset at a need position (especially after watching us burst back onto the national scene in 2008). Simple altruism may have played a role -- and in all fairness to Miles, while he may have a big mouth, be a questionable coach, and come off as pretty arrogant, most people tend to think he's a good all-around guy -- but even that probably has its reasonable limits in terms of explaining that decision.
One way or the other, though, the key point to realize here is that since Phelon did not go on scholarship in his first year at Alabama, Miles giving him his release to transfer to Alabama is completely and totally irrelevant. When approached by Phelon, Miles could have just as easily screamed "Rot in hell you worthless traitor!," and the end result would not have changed one bit. It didn't matter if Miles released him to Alabama or not, Phelon wasn't going on scholarship anyway.
So, then, all of that fuss last year over Miles releasing Phelon? All just wasted breath and one pointless step closer to the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome.
As a closing note, the whole ordeal is just one more oddity in the career of Phelon Jones, a player whose career who has been nothing if not highly unusual. As a highly-touted recruit out of Mobile, he originally committed to Miami before signing with LSU. Saban pursued him very hard after his arrival, but both Phelon and his father rejected the Nicktator's overtures and had more than a few not-so-nice things to say about him. Then, after supposedly impressing everyone on the scout team in Baton Rouge in 2007, he did not make a major contribution in 2008 and sought a transfer. After a publicized bout, he was given a release by Miles to play for the devil himself, and the same man and program he had spurned two years previously. Now he looks to be in line for playing time wearing the crimson and white, and he and his father are singing Saban's praises like he is the second coming of Christ. And now, moving into the 2010 season, Jones owns two national championship rings from two different programs without playing a single snap in either season, and the two major highlights of his career to date involve a single tackle against Auburn and a deflected pass in a blowout loss to Ole Miss, both in 2008. More than three years after being one of the nation's most highly-touted recruit, he is still just raw potential at this point in his career. Something tells me this is not how he originally expected things to go when major programs started coming after him hot and heavy in early 2006.