Fall Camp Report – Defensive Backs
With the losses of Dee Milliner and Robert Lester, it was imperative for Nick Saban & Co to find some reliable kids to reinforce the Tide’s secondary during the spring. Our spring write-up covered every scholarship DB on the roster and made a few guesses at how things would shake out. With that in mind, we wanted to update each player we previewed and let you know how things stand going into fall camp.
Deion Belue – 5’11, 179 Senior: Belue acquitted himself beautifully during the spring and goes into fall camp as the Tide’s #1 corner.
Geno Smith – 6’0, 182 Sophomore: Smith’s ascent from Saban’s 4th quarter whipping boy to starting corner in the nickel and dime packages was amazing last season. Interestingly enough, Smith continued to man the nickel and dime slot position during the spring so he hasn’t made the move to outside corner, as yet.
John Fulton – 6’0, 187 Senior: Fulton spent the spring recovering from toe surgery but the word on the street is that he’s not giving up a starting corner position without a fight. The Fulton/Jones battle will be one of the best ones in fall camp.
Cyrus Jones – 5’10, 192 Sophomore: When I first saw Cyrus Jones, he was returning taking a pick six to the house in the Under Armour All Star game so I was surprised when he started his Bama career at WR. However, Jones made the move to corner during the spring and showed himself to be one of the best cover corners on the team. If you still have the A-Day game on tape, go back and find #5 in the secondary. You’ll see that he was matched up on Amari Cooper all day long and with the exception of one big play, Jones was exceptional. From what I’ve seen, Jones is a better cover corner than Fulton (but he’s not as good at run support) so this is a key battle to watch in the fall.
Bradley Sylve – 5’11, 178 Sophomore: With Fulton on the shelf it was Sylve’s time to shine during the spring but he really didn’t seem to emerge as a top corner. Sylve is one of the fastest players on the team and has looked decent during his mop up time appearances but it seems he’s not going to factor into the secondary any time soon.
Jabriel Washington – 5’11, 183 Sophomore: Washington’s story is the same as Sylve’s. Washington has tremendous speed and had an opportunity to thrust himself into the cornerback discussion. Alas, this never materialized during the spring and he isn’t expected to contribute much at corner this fall.
Dee Hart – 5’9, 190 Sophomore: While Cyrus Jones’ move to the defensive backfield looks to be permanent, Hart’s time in the secondary seemed to be more experimental. Hart’s knee injuries will likely prevent him from having tremendous lateral quickness so it’s our guess that Hart won’t factor into the secondary much at all. Punt returner? Yes. Corner? No.
Newcomers: Maurice Smith has wowed his teammates during their summer 7 on 7 competitions and appears poised to emerge from the other two corner signees (Eddie Jackson and Jonathan Cook) from the 2013 class. Jackson and Cook will have a couple of weeks to impress the staff before they make any redshirt determinations. We think the latter two players will likely redshirt this season, barring injuries.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix – 6’1, 210 Junior: Ha Ha was just voted as Daniel Jeremiah’s 40th ranked player in all of college football but I think that ranking is way too low. The light bulb went off for HCD sometime around the midpoint of the season last year and there was no better player in the Tide’s secondary during their last three games. HCD was tremendous during the spring and we look for him to be one of those WOW players you’ll talk about many, many years from now. This kid is tremendous.
Landon Collins – 6’0, 202 Sophomore: Many feel that the time is now for Collins to have the impact we all expected when he signed as a 5 star stud. With Lester’s departure, he certainly has his opportunity. Reports out of camp say that Collins is in a dog fight with Sunseri, Perry and Williams so it doesn’t appear that he clearly separated himself from the pack during the spring. This is another huge battle to watch during fall camp and we suspect that Collins will be in the nickel and dime packages but maybe not every package (like Lester was).
Vinnie Sunseri – 6’0, 215 Junior: Last season, our cousin Vinnie was the fans’ personal whipping boy in the secondary as he was beaten more times than a rented mule. During spring drills, Sunseri seemed to reestablish himself as a full-time safety so fall camp is going to be very, very interesting to watch. Vinnie drops down to a LB position in the dime looks so that will certainly bring in Landon Collins in that package. The question is when Bama is in short yardage or their 3-4/4-3 looks who will be the safety opposite of Ha Ha? Tune in during August to find out!
Nick Perry – 6’1, 208 Senior: Perry played quite a bit last season and, like Sunseri, he was burned more times than an Irishman at Panama City beach. Perry’s knowledge of the defense certainly gives him a leg up but his lack of speed and lack of coverage skills sends him back down the pecking order. During the spring it seemed Perry’s stock had plateaued (and even come down some) while Collins’ stock continued to rise. It will be interesting to see what role Perry is able to carve out for himself back there in the fall.
Jarrick Williams – 6’1, 212 Senior: I’d written this guy off like 2 years ago but early in the spring ALL of the buzz at the safety position was about Williams’ return from injury and how impressive he looked. He didn’t appear to do anything spectacular during the spring so, like Perry, it will be interesting to see what role Williams has in the secondary.
Jai Miller – 6’3, 215 Freshman: Physically, there really aren’t many more kids that will physically impress you than Jai Miller. Of course, it helps that Miller’s chiseled physique has been trained for 28 years while his fellow compatriots in the secondary are, at best, 22 years old. Miller is smart – hence his acceptance into Stanford back when he was a 2003 signee. Miller is athletic – he signed a baseball contract with the then Florida Marlins which kept him from going to Stanford. BTW – he was set to play both football AND basketball for Stanford. And he didn’t suck at baseball either – he hit 32 home runs in AAA in 2011. We are huge Jai Miller fans here at the Lighthouse and we hope that he continues to regain the feel for playing football. He won’t start any games at safety but he’ll certainly be a special teams demon this season.
Newcomers: Aside from Miller, there are no freshman safeties listed for Alabama. That being said, Anthony Averett played safety during one of the all-star games and has the kind of speed that could separate himself from everyone else listed at this position. However, Averett is VERY raw and was beyond lost at this position during the all-star game so look for him to redshirt no matter which position he lines up at.
What we said in Spring (and nothing has changed in our eyes): There are a couple of observations to make when looking that the sum total of this group. First, Nick is so “thrilled” with the corners he has that he’s enlisted the help of Dee Hart, Christion Jones, Cyrus Jones and FOUR talented freshmen to shore things up at that position. True, one or two of the new pups could move to safety but that still would leave 5 guys fighting for time with Smith, Belue, Sylve and Washington. Corner appears to be a very unsettled and precarious position for the time being. Then, at safety, you have quite a few bodies but perhaps only two guys with the true athleticism to perform the duties required for the position. Watching Sunseri, Perry and Williams compete with the more athletic Collins and Miller will be a highlight of the spring. Given the need for safeties to be adept at playing corner, as well, you would have to think that the better athletes would have the best chance to succeed. We shall see!
Fall Camp Previews