Malachi Moore Primed for Bounce Back Junior Season
The Crimson Tide return a ton of talent and production in the secondary, including junior Malachi Moore. He and Brian Branch have been interchangeable at the Star position (nickel) their first two years on campus. Branch started each of Alabama’s last four contests in 2021 and is the favorite to start again in 2022 after holding down the first-team reps in spring practice.
Moore can earn extended playing time at the Money spot (sixth defensive back) in dime packages and has the versatility to also play safety, but that doesn’t mean he can’t win the starting nickel spot in fall camp or take over during the season. Moore has the ability to make an impact on different levels of the defense and his depth in the backend is a valuable commodity in today’s game with spread offenses.
DeMarcco Hellams spoke last season about the role Moore and Branch play in the Crimson Tide secondary.
"I have tremendous confidence in both of them," Hellams said. "They do their job really well. They make plays, and they’re two very good players for us."
Moore, a former 4-star recruit earned the start in the Tide’s season opener in 2020 against Missouri as a true freshman, despite not having a spring period because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was able to learn the Alabama defense through Zoom, showcasing a high football IQ and quickly adapted to the college game both physically and mentally. The following week against Texas A&M he totaled six tackles, two pass breakups and claimed SEC Freshman of the Week recognition. Moore continued to thrive on an Alabama defense that ranked first in scoring defense.
He would start the first 11 games of the season before being held out of the College Football Playoff because of a back injury. Moore finished the season with 44 tackles, including four for loss, three interceptions and a forced fumble, which earned him Freshman All-American and second-team All-SEC honors.
Last season, Moore started at safety in Alabama’s season opener against Miami and came up with the fifth turnover of his career. He was never fully healthy in 2021, rotated in and out of the starting lineup for a majority of the year until Branch took over full-time duties in the Iron Bowl.
Defensive coordinator Pete Golding spoke in January before the national championship about Moore and Branch playing the same position.
“We’ll try to put the best 11 guys that we’ve got on the field based on what we’re seeing,” said Golding. “A lot of times, depending on the personnel grouping that we’re in, based on what they’re in, we want a bigger guy at the point of attack that’s a little more physical or a better cover guy.”
Golding also spoke about feeling confident with either of the juniors in the starting lineup.
“I think that’s the best thing about Malachi or Branch, both started games here, played a lot of football, have been productive,” Golding said. “They understand the defense. So either one of those guys in there I think we’re in pretty good shape. And they’ve been moving around. They play safety. Play star. Branch played a little bit of corner.”
“Those guys are plug-and-play guys and they know all five spots in the back end and they give us the best chance to win. Either of those guys that are in, we feel we’re in pretty good shape. We look at them both as starters based on the personnel group and what they’re doing, who you go with that week
The bottom line is both guys are too talented not to play. Moore has plenty of college experience and his versatility allows him to make an impact in multiple spots. In coverage, he shows great patience and eye discipline. He’s aggressive in run support, and like many of his counterparts in the secondary plays with an effort and energy that is infectious.
Moore has a knack for creating turnovers, as evident by his team-high four takeaways in 2020. The Alabama native started in a Saban coached secondary as a true freshman, something very few players can claim. The last two that started 10 or more games, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Patrick Surtain II went on to become first round draft picks.
He has battled through injuries the last two seasons but is healthy heading into his junior campaign. Moore put in work in the weight room and will play a vital role for an Alabama defense that will be one of the country's best.