BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama coach Nick Saban delivered some positive news regarding the long-term health of Crimson Tide safety Eddie Jackson on Monday.
Jackson fractured his leg on a punt return during Alabama’s 33-14 win over Texas A&M on Saturday.
The broken leg shouldn’t hinder Jackson’s chance at an NFL career.
“The good news is, Eddie is going to be fine,” Saban said at the Monday Morning Quarterback Club. “This is not going to be something that is going to affect his career in any kind of way, shape or form. He’s obviously going to be out for the season, but if there is anything that will heal and you won’t have problems with, it’s the broken bone.”
Saban said he wasn’t sure how the team will manage the opening at safety going forward. Saban plans to speak with the players back in Tuscaloosa later Monday.
Saban said the challenge will be getting players enough reps because of the lack of depth in the secondary.
“We hate losing him. He’s a great leader,” Saban said. “He was really a great player for us in the secondary. He’s a great person on our team. It’ll create an opportunity for somebody else, and hopefully they’ll be able to take advantage of it.”
Juniors Laurence “Hootie” Jones and Tony Brown are two of the options at safety.
There’s also the possibility of moving Minkah Fitzpatrick to safety. Fitzpatrick currently plays cornerback in Alabama’s base defense and star (fifth defensive back) in Alabama’s nickel defense.
Freshman receiver Trevon Diggs could be moved back to safety as well. Diggs played both positions during fall camp, and for the first few weeks of the season.
Redshirt freshman Deionte Thompson is an option as well.
Jones has been Alabama’s third safety this season. Jones plays safety when Alabama lines up in its dime package and seemingly would make an easy transition into the starting safety role.
Brown has worked with the cornerbacks and safeties throughout his time at Alabama. Brown’s versatility would allow Alabama to use him at safety or at money (sixth defensive back) when the Crimson Tide moves to their dime package.
Brown has worked at cornerback, money and star (fifth defensive back) while at Alabama.
“Tony’s doing fine. He needs to continue to work to improve,” Saban said. “We’ve moved him around a lot. … He’s got a lot of hats that he’s wearing right now which is difficult to get a guy that many reps at any one position when he’s playing three. But he’s handled it pretty well so far.”
Jackson’s leadership role in the Tide’s secondary and the entire defense may have been just as important as his play on the field. Jackson made all of the calls for the secondary, and the younger players looked up to him for guidance. That won’t be easy to replace.
“Well, you always hate to lose a great player,” Saban said. “You always hate to lose a great person. You always hate to lose a great competitor. You always hate to lose a guy who is actually a bit of the quarterback in terms of the most experience, the most knowledge.
“He adds stability to the other players, but this is going to be something that somebody else has to take the bull by the horns now and be a little more responsible for. It’ll just be an opportunity for another player.”