Saban Comments on Eli Ricks Before LSU Matchup
Coming into the season, it was assumed that Eli Ricks would start alongside Kool-Aid McKinstry at cornerback. After his freshman season at LSU in which he had four interceptions, Ricks was recognized as a third team All-American.
However, it was not until week eight against Mississippi State that Ricks started a game for the Crimson Tide. Coming off a lockdown performance against the Bulldogs, Ricks gets the chance to battle against his former team Saturday in Death Valley.
"I think it is important that he goes into this game and is himself and doesn't think he has to do something fantastic because he's playing against a team he used to play for," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said.
In week one against Utah State, Saban rotated four cornerbacks: Kool-Aid McKinstry, Terrion Arnold, Khyree Jackson and Eli Ricks. Over the next few games, Arnold and McKinstry established themselves as the starting cornerbacks.
With Evan Stewart of Texas A&M and Julian Hyatt of Tennessee finding so much success against Arnold, Ricks got the opportunity to prove himself against Mississippi State. Ricks broke up four passes against the Bulldog's air raid offense, displaying the potential fans had anticipated.
People questioned why Ricks had not yet started this year, especially for Ricks being a projected first-round draft pick. Prior to transferring to Alabama, Ricks suffered a season ending shoulder injury in his sophomore season at LSU.
Despite playing in the spring game, Saban said that Ricks was still recovering from his shoulder injury. In fall camp, Ricks suffered a back injury that halted his progression into becoming a starter. Ricks was also not as familiar with the Alabama scheme, while McKinstry, Arnold and Jackson all had a year's worth of experience in the system.
"I think it's a challenge for any player coming in to learn a new system," Saban said. "Every player develops at his own pace and sometimes when guys have played in other systems, they have to recalibrate what they already know to what they are trying to learn."
While playing for LSU, he recorded four tackles and two pass deflections in the 55-17 loss to Alabama in 2020. Just two years separated, Ricks will have played for both LSU and Alabama in Death Valley.