Sophomore Eddie Jackson is possibly the most talented cornerback on the Alabama football team at this point, and if you hear Nick Saban tell it that’s most certainly the case.
This past weekend during Alabama’s first scrimmage of the spring Jackson tore his ACL and will now require surgery. Nick Saban says that he is confident Jackson will be healthy and ready for the fall, but that obviously isn’t a sure thing, and even if he is he is going to be coming off a very serious injury and will likely need a lot of time to get back into form. This leaves a very thin group at cornerback even thinner as we inch closer to the 2014 season.
When I say thin, I don’t mean in the sense of talent, as there are loads of talent in the Alabama secondary. What there is not in abundance is experience. Jackson, Bradley Sylve, Cyrus Jones, and Maurice Smith all earned starts in 2013 and all are expected to have a better grasp of the Alabama defense and with a full year of conditioning and working with Alabama coaches under their belt a lot better across the board. Still there is a lot of youth there and more inexperienced freshmen will likely have a shot of seeing the field early.
Right now with Jackson out of commission for the remainder spring, the top four corners will now more than likely be juniors Cyrus Jones and Bradley Sylve, sophomore Maurice Smith, and redshirt freshman Jonathan Cook. True freshman Tony Brown will also be in that rotation, though he is battling a shoulder injury he initially suffered during a high school all star game. Brown aggravated that injury in a fall during track practice, but has had an excellent spring thus far and is learning the defensive schemes quickly according to those that have seen him and Saban himself.
This will be an opportunity for players like Maurice Smith, junior Jabriel Washington, and Jonathan Cook, that haven’t had much work with the first time defense to get some reps and possibly show what they can do as well. This would also likely have been an opportunity for senior Geno Smith to reemerge at cornerback, but with safety also being very thin, Smith will likely have to remain at safety. In the fall five star recruit Marlon Humphrey will be joining the team and will get the opportunity to possibly get early playing time like Eddie Jackson and Maurice Smith did last year.
Regardless of who steps forward, cornerback will once again be a position that will be a question for Alabama in 2014, and though the QB depth in the SEC isn’t what it was last year, the corners will be tested early and often.
If it’s any comfort, it wasn’t until Dre Kirkpatrick’s second year of heavy playing time that he turned into the star that he was. Kirkpatrick being abused by the likes of Alshon Jeffrey as a sophomore in 2010 only to become one of the premier cornerbacks in the country in 2011. His struggles as a sophomore weren’t because of a lack of talent, it was a lack of experience. At cornerback, sometimes the thing that improves a player is actually being on the field, even if that means getting burned. Cyrus Jones and Bradley Sylve felt those types of things last year, and in 2014 someone in that secondary must step up.
Eddie Jackson might not have the chance to be that guy anymore, but he still could come back and pick up right where he left off.
That doesn’t mean someone else can’t step up.