Secondary Mishaps: The Evolution of Money and Star Under Saban
In 2015 The Alabama defense officially listed the Star and Money positions in their secondary. Prior to the 2015 season, the nickel and dime defensive backs were typically the backup corners, but it seemed Head Coach Nick Saban and Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart wanted to specialize the positions as the passing game in college football started to explode. Thus, the position titles were born.
Looking at the evolution of the position from 2015 to today, 2015 debuted true freshman Minkah Fitzpatrick as the starting star position. Fitzpatrick was a 5-star cornerback out of New Jersey. Tony Brown, a former 5-star CB in the 2014 class, as well as former 4-star corner Maurice Smith, a member in the 2013 class. Fitzpatrick held down the position until Safety Eddie Jackson (a former cornerback) broke his leg during the 2016 season. With the move to safety by Fitzpatrick, Tony Brown took over at the star position and remained locked in there throughout the 2017 season.
In 2018, a new comer took over at the Star position; red shirt Sophomore Shyheim Carter, a 4-star corner in the 2016 class. He was moved to safety during his college days. Carter would finish the season holding onto the position. 2019 was more of the same with Carter and former 5-star in the 2018 class Patrick Surtain ll splitting duties with him.
2020 is where things change, and more issues in pass coverage can be seen. 2020 debuted Malachi Moore at the Star and Brian Branch at the Money position. Two true freshman, both 4-star safeties. What's the issue or difference here?
It's quite simple - the Star and Money positions cover the slot wide receivers and tight ends. While traditionally safeties cover tight ends you don't want them regularly covering slot receivers. Both players have been exposed at times over the past three seasons, even when they swapped roles with Branch now being the Star and Moore now at the Money. While they are great against the run game, they are proven liabilities against the pass.
To summarize maybe Nick Saban and Pete Golding should look at going back to the basics at these positions. The return to a true cornerback or hybrid player could be the key to helping solve the issues in the passing game. Perhaps a look at Khyree Jackson, Eli Ricks or some names we haven't heard a lot about such as Jacquez Robinson or Earl Little ll.
Regardless of whatever decisions are made something needs to happen for Alabama to bounce back.