TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — SEC Country is breaking down each of Alabama’s position groups before the entire 2016 roster reports to campus.
Friday, we take a closer look at the Crimson Tide’s secondary, a group that could be one of the best during Nick Saban’s tenure at Alabama.
Names you need to know: Eddie Jackson (senior), Ronnie Harrison (sophomore), Marlon Humphrey (redshirt sophomore), Minkah Fitzpatrick (sophomore), Tony Brown (junior), Laurence “Hootie” Jones (junior), Maurice Smith (senior), Anthony Averett (redshirt junior), Deionte Thompson (redshirt freshman), Shawn Burgess-Becker (sophomore), Kendall Sheffield (redshirt freshman)
On the way: Shyheim Carter, Jared Mayden, Aaron Robinson, Nigel Knott
Analysis: On paper, Alabama’s secondary has a chance to be one of the best during Saban’s time in Tuscaloosa. At each position, Alabama has playmakers who attack the football, and guys who are also physical in run support, which is key in Saban’s defense.
With a full year of starting experience under his belt, Humphrey projects to be an All-SEC type cornerback after posting three interceptions last season. Same goes for Fitzpatrick who’s versatility allows Alabama to be even more creative in the secondary. Fitzpatrick is an aggressive playmaker who likes the end zone. He returned both of his interceptions for touchdowns and also scored off a blocked punt last season.
At safety, Jackson has a nose for the ball. He finished top-10 in the country and tied for first in the SEC with six interceptions, including two touchdown returns. By returning for his senior season, Jackson gives Alabama’s secondary a veteran who has seen everything. This is a valuable commodity to have with younger players around.
Like the others, Harrison too is a natural playmaker. He had two interceptions last season while serving as the third safety.
Alabama also has veterans like Maurice Smith, Tony Brown, Laurence “Hootie” Jones and Anthony Averett who can provide depth and step in when Alabama goes to its nickel and dime packages. Young players like Deionte Thompson, Shawn Burgess-Becker and Kendall Sheffield are competing as well.
Jones recent arrest complicates things a bit as he exited spring competing for that third safety spot in Alabama’s dime package. Luckily for the Tide, there is plenty of depth on the back end as well as a ton of talent coming in this summer and fall.
Key question: Will the two rising sophomores take that extra step in 2016? Fitzpatrick and Harrison both had breakout campaigns as true freshmen last season, but they’ll need to raise their level of play even more as they step into full-time starting roles.
Bottom line: Look for Alabama’s secondary to make even more plays on the ball than it did last season when the Tide led the SEC and finished among the top-10 in the country with 19 interceptions, including four returned for touchdowns.