Alabama Position-By-Position Breakdown: Defensive Backs
It’s only spring, but it’s never too early to look ahead to the fall. In the eighth installment of a position-by-position breakdown of the Crimson Tide’s 2015 roster heading into spring practice, Tide 99.1 looks at the defensive backs.
-S Landon Collins (NFL Draft)
-S Nick Perry (graduated/NFL Draft)
-S/CB Jarrick Williams (graduated/NFL Draft)
-DB Zach Houston (left program)
-DB Jerrod Bierbower (graduated)
-CB Cyrus Jones (senior)
-CB Eddie Jackson (junior)
-CB Tony Brown (sophomore)
-CB Bradley Sylve (redshirt senior)
-CB Marlon Humphrey (redshirt freshman)
-CB Jonathan Cook (redshirt sophomore)
-CB Anthony Averett (redshirt sophomore)
-CB Levi Wallace (preferred walk-on sophomore)
-S Geno Smith (senior)
-S Maurice Smith (junior)
-S Laurence “Hootie” Jones (sophomore)
-S Jabriel Washington (redshirt senior)
-S/RB Ronnie Clark (redshirt freshman)
-S Bo Grant (walk-on junior)
-S Nate Staskelunas (walk-on junior)
-S Deionte Thompson (early enrollee)
-S Ronnie Harrison (early enrollee)
Keep an eye on: Eddie Jackson. Prior to his torn ACL last spring, many believed Jackson would be the team’s top heading into last season after filling in well when his number was called as a freshman. Although Jackson did make it back in time for the fall, his production didn’t match expectations. On several occasions, he appeared slow and not 100 percent healthy. Whether that’s true or not, a full spring and another offseason to recuperate can only help the rising junior bounce back individually and as a unit in 2015.
Overview: Over the past two seasons, no group has been more heavily scrutinized than the secondary. Statistically, Alabama finished 59th nationally in pass defense, by far its worst ranking of the Nick Saban era. Perhaps the biggest reason for that was the Tide’s consistent inability to prevent the deep ball, which it will look to improve this spring with new defensive backs coach Mel Tucker, a veteran coach at the collegiate and NFL levels.
But the Tide will be without three of its four starters from a year ago this spring. Collins and Perry have departed for the NFL, while Cyrus Jones, the team’s best corner last season, will likely miss all of spring with hip cartilage. Jackson, the other team’s corner, struggled at times last season after returning from a torn ACL sustained last spring. Still, both should be considered the favorites to lock down the two starting cornerback jobs.
At safety, the two new replacements will be experienced enough to help minimize the growing pains that occur when becoming a first-time starter. Geno and Maurice Smith are arguably the team’s two most versatile defensive backs, beginning their Tide careers as corners before transitioning to safety by the following season. Now, upperclassmen both are expected to headline the two vacated safety positions.
Among the backups, Brown appears next in line behind Jones and Jackson at corner if either is absent as Cyrus Jones is now. Sylve, a fifth-year senior, should also see significant action as a reserve and Humphrey, a former prized recruit, is expected to contribute after redshirting in 2014. Washington, another long-tenured player, could also compete for a starting job at safety but should see ample playing time regardless. Laurence “Hootie” Jones will be another top contender at the backend of the defense and may also fit in nicely at the Tide’s all-important “Star” position.
Predicted 2015 Post-Spring Depth Chart:
1. Cyrus Jones
2. Tony Brown
3. Marlon Humphrey
1. Geno Smith
2. Jabriel Washington
1. Maurice Smith
2. Laurence “Hootie” Jones
1. Laurence “Hootie” Jones
2. Ronnie Harrison
1. Eddie Jackson
2. Tony Brown
3. Bradley Sylve
Still to come:
-CB Kendall Sheffield (A unanimous top-five corner in this year’s class, the consensus five-star corner could immediately contend for playing time when he arrives this summer.)
-CB Minkah Fitzpatrick (Like Sheffield, Fitzpatrick is also a consensus five-star and top-five corner and could also be in line for early playing time.)
-S Shawn Burgess-Becker (The four-star prospect was listed as an “Athlete” by some recruiting services and could also play receiver at Alabama.)
Up next: Special teams