Alabama Football: Secondary more talented and more experienced


The Alabama football defense will benefit from a better secondary this season. Better in talent, experience and coaching.

The final measurement of the 2018 Alabama football secondary came in a national championship failure. That measurement is not completely fair. An impotent pass rush made the secondary vulnerable against Clemson.

At least one player, Josh Jobe, was thrust into a pressure situation in which his playing experience was inadequate.  Consider all the above and the results were predictable.

Results should be very different in 2019 (and early 2020) for several reasons. The primary reason is the difference in playing experience going into 2019. At the start of the 2018 season, Alabama football returned three members of the secondary with starting experience. They were Deionte Thompson, Shyheim Carter and Trevon Diggs. Diggs was lost to injury in the sixth game of the season.

While Xavier McKinney had a great season, he was unproven at the start. Saivion Smith joined the team from the JUCO ranks, after a freshman season at LSU. Jared Mayden had mostly special teams experience. Josh Jobe and Patrick Surtain II were freshmen.

Further complicating the championship run was inexplicably inconsistent performance from Deionte Thompson. Those weaknesses in the secondary, coupled with a roster depleted in edge rushers, resulted in an unusually vulnerable Alabama Crimson Tide secondary.

What is different for Alabama football in 2019?

First, it is coaching. Nick Saban has chosen to apply more coaching resources to the Alabama secondary than ever before. Trusted Karl Scott returns but this season, he has the help of more than a graduate assistant. Charles Kelly has been added to coach the safeties while Scott will maintain responsibility for the cornerbacks.

The highest-paid graduate assistant in college football also returns. Nick Saban, of course, will still tutor defensive backs.

In the real Alabama football base defense, the nickel, look for an adjustment in assignments. The Crimson Tide staff has so much confidence in now sophomore Josh Jobe, he is likely to start at cornerback. With Trevon Diggs manning the other cornerback slot, that frees up Patrick Surtain II. Look for Surtain to fill a role similar to what was done with Minkah Fitzpatrick at the Star position.

Surtain is big and welcomes physical confrontations. Having Surtain at Star allows Shyheim Carter to focus on playing safety. No player understands the Nick Saban defense more than Shyheim. At safety, he can help shepherd the entire secondary. Opposite Carter will be the Tide’s most productive defensive back last season. Xavier McKinney was third on the team in tackles. He also had 10 pass breakups, two interceptions, three sacks and two quarterback hurries.

When the Crimson Tide uses its dime defense, Jared Mayden will likely continue as the sixth defensive back. Others who will push for playing time are Daniel Wright, Eddie Smith and Jalyn Armour-Davis. By the second half of the season, summer enrollee, Demarcco Hellams may push his way into the rotation.

Next. '19 Defense not hampered by lack of talent. dark

A strong pass rush will still be essential. But look for the 2019 secondary to hold up against any passing attack.