Position outlook: secondary
The Alabama defensive backfield has been one of the strongest points of head coach Nick Saban’s defense since his arrival in 2007. The 2012 version of the Alabama secondary is replacing a number of talented athletes, but should be just as strong as it has been in recent years.
The safety position is arguably the Crimson Tide’s most talented position. Senior Robert Lester chose to return for his final season of eligibility and will anchor the back of the secondary for the third straight season. Sophomore Vinnie Sunseri and Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix are also in the mix to receive playing time with the first unit.
The Crimson Tide defense utilizes a number of different looks in its base 3-4 defense. When the Tide is in a nickel package, Alabama uses a Star. When the Tide uses its dime package, Money is the position added into the secondary. Sunseri has played both spots during his time at Alabama, but this season his most likely position will be at the Star.
Former Crimson Tide defensive back Javier Arenas made a name for himself outside of kick returns by playing the Star in the Alabama secondary, and Sunseri has drawn comparisons to Arenas since he began practicing with the first unit during the spring.
Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix has seen the field in nickel packages during fall practice as a safety alongside Robert Lester. HaHa used a phenomenal spring campaign to solidify his role within the Alabama secondary, and will likely be featured in nickel situations in 2012.
True freshman Landon Collins entered Tuscaloosa as one the nation’s most highly-touted defensive prospects. When fall camp opened, it was hard to tell the difference between Collins and other veteran defensive backs. Collins looks like a safety that has spent numerous offseasons in the Crimson Tide’s training and conditioning program. If he continues to get a firm grasp of the defensive playbook, he should have no trouble cracking the two-deep.
The secondary lost Jarrick Williams to an ACL tear earlier in fall camp, and he was seeing time at the Star position before his injury. Now, freshman Eddie Williams has moved over from the wide receiver position and has had to learn quickly as he competes to provide depth at the position. Nick Perry is another candidate for this role.
The cornerback situation within the Alabama defense is far less complex than the safety position. Senior Dee Milliner is the only returning cornerback with a large amount of experience at the position, and he has used that experience to secure his spot as a leader in the Alabama secondary during the spring and fall camps.
For much of spring practice, Milliner was seen during media observation periods working as the inside cornerback lined up against the slot receivers. Likewise, he spent most of the Tide’s annual A-Day game as the cornerback on the left side of the field. This placed him against what tends to be the offense’s most talented receiver, and given Milliner’s experience it’s a role he’ll likely continue to play in 2012.
Junior cornerback John Fulton used his time wisely in the spring and appears to have solidified his spot on the other side of the field as a cornerback in most situations. The 187-pounder played sparingly during his first two seasons in Tuscaloosa, but his dedication, confidence and hard work has helped him work his way into the mix as a cornerback with the first unit. He seems to be primarily used in nickel and dime situations, but given Alabama’s tendencies to use both packages quite frequently, Fulton should see a plenty of time on the field in 2012.
When the Tide is not in a nickel or dime defense, junior college transfer Deion Belue is the most likely option to take the field as the cornerback on the other side of the defense opposite of Milliner. Belue entered school in January in a battle with then fellow junior college transfer Travell Dixon. Dixon was the favorite entering spring practice to solidify a spot as a contributor, but when Dixon was given a number of assignments and rolls, Belue stepped up and made a name for himself as a one of the cornerbacks on the field during certain packages.
In the coming weeks, CrimsonConfidential.com will be looking at the expectations behind certain positions within the Alabama secondary, namely the Money and Star position.
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