TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama’s secondary added some depth on Monday when Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban announced that defensive back Tony Brown is eligible to play.
Brown, a junior, missed the first four games of the season due to an NCAA suspension. Brown returns in time for Alabama’s homecoming game vs. Kentucky on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
“I think right now, Tony’s got to work on — and I told him this — developing trust in his teammates and the coaches,” Saban said. “He certainly has the ability to play. He’s been an outstanding special teams player for us. I think that’s the first thing you’ll see, then we’ll work him back into the positions that he’s played in the past — corner, star — and see if he can contribute in any way to make us stronger.
“I know it’s going to add a little depth at an area where we don’t have a lot of depth. That will definitely be helpful, but I also think it will create some competition with some of the other players that may be helpful as well.”
Brown’s biggest impact on the team has come on special teams for Alabama. He had eight special teams tackles as a sophomore last season. Four came on punt coverage while the other four came on kickoff coverage.
Brown’s speed and athleticism make him an ideal candidate for the gunner position on the punt team. He was named one of Alabama’s coaching staff’s special teams players of the week against Wisconsin, Middle Tennessee, Ole Miss and LSU. He’s delivered some big hits on kickoff coverage, including one against LSU last season.
“Tony Brown, he hits like a linebacker,” Alabama linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton said. “Expect to see some big hits out of him this weekend.”
Despite the suspension, Hamilton said Brown’s “mindset hasn’t changed at practice.” Hamilton added that “Tony is a maniac” who “always has the juice” and practices hard.
As a freshman in 2014, Brown played in 13 games and made two starts at cornerback (Florida and Ole Miss). He finished the year with 10 tackles, including one for loss. He added a pass breakup and one quarterback hurry.
“You know, he was upset that he couldn’t be out there with us, he couldn’t travel with us,” Alabama cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick said. “The last couple of weeks he’s been working really hard. He’s been staying focused, and he’s really boosting up the team’s energy. That’s what he does all the time, and we know we are going to be really happy to have him out there and add some depth to the secondary.”
Brown is considered one of the funniest players on the team. Teammates say he loves to “crack jokes” on everybody to keep the mood light.
Brown is also one of the best athletes on the team. He’s the size of a strong safety. He covers like a cornerback. He hits like a linebacker and has track speed.
Brown is hungry to make his return this weekend.
“Just watching him on the scout team, he go hard every play,” Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley said. “It’s funny cause he knew wasn’t going to play the last few games, but he still went hard. That helped him get better. He’s preparing himself to come out this week and play hard.”