SEC Country is breaking down each Alabama position group from Feb. 29 to March 7 as the Crimson Tide prepare for spring football.
Sunday’s breakdown features Alabama’s 2016 defensive backs.
Notable departures: Cyrus Jones (cornerback)
You should already know: Eddie Jackson (safety), Minkah Fitzpatrick (cornerback), Marlon Humphrey (cornerback), Ronnie Harrison (safety)
Get to know: Kendall Sheffield (cornerback), Tony Brown (cornerback), Maurice Smith (cornerback), Shawn Burgess-Becker (safety), Deionte Thompson (safety)
Analysis: Jackson was one of several Tide players who elected to skip the NFL draft and return for his senior year. His presence will provide valuable experience to a secondary that will be lacking in that department.
Projected starters Fitzpatrick, Humphrey and Harrison all have NFL potential and made impressive contributions on the field last year, but the trio — all sophomores — were still prone to their share of rookie mistakes in 2015.
Brown is a wild-card; he wound up deep in Saban’s doghouse after a pair of late-season incidents — one on-field, one off-field — that made headlines. If he can stay out of trouble, he’ll have plenty of opportunities. Sheffield is a redshirt freshman who veteran players say is poised to break out this year.
Beyond those two, Burgess-Becker and Thompson provide good depth at safety, and senior cornerback Smith (38 career tackles) has already proved his ability to make plays.
If there’s still a need for more help, the new recruiting class features three four-star options.
Key question: Who will win the third cornerback spot after Fitzpatrick and Humphrey?
Bottom line: This unit’s youthfulness is a slight cause for concern, but it still made several big plays last season, and several players should make big strides forward in 2016.