Defensive Back Overview
Ahh yes, we’ve finally come to the position on the Alabama football team that, perhaps, isn’t quite as full of hope and glee. Nope. Get ready for some harsh reality here, folks. For the record, you should know that the previous overviews were written without having the benefit an official depth chart to go by. The previous overviews were basically information gleaned from Saban’s pressers, media articles, folks who attended practices and scrimmages and some educated guesstimates by me.
Anyway, on to the DBs! The Bama secondary lost starters (and NFL first rounders) Dre Kirkpatrick and Mark Barron, but many forget that Will Lowery and Dequan Menzie have also departed. Additionally, safety Jarrick Williams tore his ACL in fall camp and is out for the season and Juco corner Travell Dixon left the team early in camp. Dixon was being counted on to provide depth and, perhaps, start at a corner position so his loss is significant so the attrition here is significant.
However, Alabama does return two starters from last season in safety Robert Lester and cornerback Dee Milliner. Lester and Milliner are both very good but they’ll certainly be hard pressed to match the production of Barron and Kirkpatrick. Meanwhile, Vinnie Sunseri takes on a full time role at safety and, in a bit of a surprise, Juco transfer Deion Belue seems to have secured the other corner position ahead of John Fulton. I suspect that Fulton will play a lot and will be the first corner off the bench but, behind him, there isn’t much depth. Saying there isn’t much depth here is akin to saying the GulfCoast got a little bit of rain this week. Many predict that Alabama will stumble at least once this season and, if they do, my guess is that it will likely be a result of a blown coverage or some sort of gaffe by their extremely young and inexperienced secondary.
Dee Milliner – 6’1, 196. Former 5 star from Millbrook, Alabama.
Milliner has the size and speed that Saban looks for in a DB and is, in fact, the prototypical Saban corner. Milliner has gotten better and better and some scouts say he’s a better NFL prospect than Dre Kirkpatrick. Milliner is exceptional in run support and is pretty decent in coverage. He’s a good ‘un…
Robert Lester – 6’2, 210. Former 4 star from Foley, Alabama.
So much for Lester being just a guy we signed as part of a package deal to get Julio Jones. Mc-Kiper (I can’t recall if it was McShay or Kiper) actually had Lester listed as a first rounder prior to last season. However, last year Lester didn’t live up to his previous 2010 campaign so this season really needs to be a bounce back season for the Tide’s leader in the secondary. He’ll be making the secondary defensive audibles so he’ll be responsible for an awful lot back there.
Vinnie Sunseri – 6’0, 218. Former 3 star from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Sunseri has transformed himself from a special teams demon to Mark Barron’s replacement. Towards the latter portion of the season, Sunseri played a ton at the safety position and, now, with his knowledge of the defense, he’s being counted on to play the star position. This means that Sunseri is going to be a mighty busy kiddo as he’ll be in every defensive package Bama deploys. It may not be a stretch to say that our cousin Vinnie will be the most pivotal player on Alabama’s defense this season.
Deion Belue – 5’11, 178. Former 4 star from Tuscumbia, Alabama.
In a surprise move (to me, anyway), Belue has beaten out John Fulton at the other cornerback position. I gave the edge to Fulton due to his experience and size but Belue has committed to stopping the run in a way no one expected. Belue, of course, is phenomenal in coverage because of his quicks but it remains to be seen if he’ll be in the right place at the right time in this complex scheme. Much will be required of Mr Belue so it will be interesting to see if he’s up to the task as a first year D1 starter.
Hasean Clinton-Dix – 6’1, 203. Former 5 star from Orlando, Florida.
I’m listing Clinton-Dix as a starter since Alabama will be in nickel and dime coverages more than 50% of the time. As such, Vinnie will move down closer to the line of scrimmage as the “Star” and Hasean (Ha Ha) will slide into Sunseri’s safety position (marking the first time a Saban defense has used a safety at the star position). Clinton-Dix has enough coverage ability to play corner, though his range, size and head hunting abilities make him a natural at safety. Again, he has very little experience in this scheme so it will be interesting to see if he gets picked on early in the season (against Michigan and Arkansas specifically).
John Fulton – 6’0, 187. Former 4 star from Manning, South Carolina.
Fulton has size and experience so it seemed a good bet that he’d win one of the corner spots ahead of Deion Belue. While that hasn’t happened, look for Fulton to get his share of reps as the first corner off the bench.
Nick Perry – 6’1, 205. Former 4 star from Prattville, Alabama.
Perry should likely be a special teams contributor as he’s been passed up by the talented quartet of Clinton-Dix, Sunseri, Collins and Eddie Williams. Well, if he hasn’t been passed up by any one of those four, he likely soon will be. Perry could play more in the secondary this season if, for some reason, Fulton is forced to move to a full time corner role. That could force Clinton-Dix to become the third corner, as I truly think the staff trusts Perry at Safety and Ha Ha at corner more than they would want to see Washington or Sylve in the game at this point.
Jabriel Washington – 5’11, 165. Former 3 star from Jackson, Tennessee.
Washington is very, very small for a Nick Saban corner. I know, Javy Arenas excelled as a smaller corner so I guess there’s hope. Washington has speed to burn but is still learning the corner position and, again, size kinda matters. I don’t foresee him garnering much playing time at this point.
Bradley Sylve – 5’11, 170. Former 4 star from Port Sulpher, Louisiana.
Speaking of speed to burn and still learning the CB position, Sylve is a former WR who is trying to make the transition to CB. All accounts are that he’s holding his own and Saban has praised him a couple of times during camp. But, I don’t think he’s quite ready for prime time just yet.
Landon Collins – 6’0, 202. Former 5 star from Geismar, Louisiana.
Perhaps the most prized recruit from the 2012 class was Landon Collins and it hasn’t taken him long to assert himself towards the top of the depth chart. Collins is listed as a second string safety on the current depth chart and the sky is the limit for this kid.
Geno Smith – 6’0, 182. Former 4 star from Atlanta, Georgia.
Geno Smith was a key target for the Tide staff as they knew full well that the depth at corner was shaky at best. While it’s a tall order for a true freshman to learn the complex coverages and techniques of a Nick Saban defense, apparently Smith has acquitted himself rather well as he’s listed as the second string corner ahead of Washington and Sylve.
Eddie Williams – 6’3, 204. Former 5 star from Panama City, Florida.
Mr Williams was another highly touted recruit from the 2012 class and much was expected of him early on when he was a wide receiver. However, Williams was switched back over to defense and he’s now attempting learn the safety position in the secondary. Williams will likely have a long climb ahead of him as there is depth galore at the safety position. Williams’ size and speed will be a strong asset to the special teams units but it will likely take a lopsided score to see him take up a position in the secondary this season.
First, a note about the “Incoming” section. These kids have only given a verbal commitment to Alabama and, as we’ve seen in recruiting, things can change before signing day.
Maurice Smith – 5’11, 174. Current 4 star from Sugar Land, Texas.
Said to be “explosive and strong”, Smith seems to fit the bill perfectly for a Nick Saban corner. Smith applauded the structure and discipline at Alabama and chose Bama over childhood favorite Texas. I like him already!
Anthony Averett – 6’1, 175. Current 3 star from Woodbury, NJ.
As most of you know, Nick is very particular about offering corners. You’d better have some size (check) and you’d better have some speed (big check). Averett is a bit raw as a cover corner but he certainly has all the attributes to be a successful one at Alabama.
While the safety position is brimming with talent, the corner position is probably the shallowest one on the team. Milliner could very likely be gone to the pros after this season if he excels and that could leave Alabama in search of more Juco corners in the 2013 class. Of course, the problem with that is there appears to be very little to no room in the inn, as the 2013 class is nearly full. I still think Alabama will push to get at least one more high quality corner in the 2013 class because, frankly, they need some help here.