2015 Alabama Crimson Tide Position by Position Breakdown

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Apr 18, 2015; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Marlon Humphrey (26) celebrates after making an interception in the annual A-day game at Bryant Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

– Key Departures: Landon Collins (NFL Draft), Nick Perry (graduation), Jarrick Williams (graduation)
– Key Returners: Cyrus Jones (senior), Eddie Jackson (senior), Tony Brown (sophomore), Bradley Sylve (senior), Geno Smith (senior), Hootie Jones (sophomore)
– Key Newcomers: Minkah Fitzpatrick (true freshman), Kendall Sheffield (true freshman)

If depth seems like it is becoming a trend with this defensive unit ,well, it should because every spot is deep and that includes the DBs. Over the last year few years, despite a ton of talent, the defensive backs have been the biggest weakness of the Alabama defense. There has always been the talent there with four and five start recruits scattered all over the place but one of the biggest problems has been lack of experience at key spots. Players have been thrown into the fire at one of the hardest positions in football, cornerback, at very young ages.

With that said senior Cyrus Jones stepped up last year as a junior and was by far the most consistent corner on the team. Jones missed much of spring because a hip injury but he is back for fall camp and is the undisputed #1 corner coming into 2015. On the other side sophomore Tony Brown, senior Bradley Sylve, and redshirt freshman Marlon Humphrey will do battle to win the other starting spot. Brown and Humphrey are blue chip recruits from last years class and Brown managed to see playing time as a true freshman due to his jumpstart on things coming in during the spring. Both Brown and Humphrey were singled out by Saban as having excellent springs this year and I fully expect both to see the field regularly this year. Sylve started out last season as a starter but was absolutely torched by West Virginia leading to him seeing the field rarely for much of the rest of the season. Due to some injuries and others struggling in the first half against Auburn, Sylve came in during the second half and was excellent. He was also solid in the spring and the former wide receiver looks to have a shot at winning back his starting position though he will have a slew of youngsters to fight off.

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Safety is one of the biggest weak spots this year due to the loss of the top three safeties from last year including probably the top safety in the entire country in Landon Collins. Eddie Jackson, a former top cornerback, converted to safety in the spring fully embraced the role and due to his athletic ability and intelligence will likely end up as the Tide’s top strong safety in 2015. Last year he never seemed to get back to 100% following his knee surgery in the 2014 spring but with a full year and then some removed from the injury he should be back to full strength. At the other safety Geno Smith, yet another former cornerback converted to safety, will likely take over the top free safety spot. Smith has had some off the field issues and has had some problems with inconsistencies on the field but he is athletic and a sure tackler. Unless one of the younger guys can take his spot, Smith is poised to jump back into the starting lineup.

The “star” (nickel) and “money” (dime) positions are huge in Alabama’s hybrid defense and you could argue that those positions, especially star, are as important as any other on the defense due to the amount of time they are on the field and what is expected. Maurice Smith will more than likely man the star with Jabriel Washington at the money. Both have a lot of experience at the spots and should excel there.

Hootie Jones is a sophomore that could end up taking over one of the top spots at safety. Hootie is a big hitter and is extremely athletic, earning comparisons to former All American HaHa Clinton-Dix. Freshmen Minkah Fitzpatrick and Kendall Sheffield are two of the most elite DB prospects Alabama has ever signed under Nick Saban and if they manage to grasp the Saban defense quickly they could very well see early playing time.

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