Alabama Football: Examining the Crimson Tide’s safety positions

(Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images) /

Following the conclusion of the 2022 season, Alabama football lost a trio of mainstays on the backend of its defense to the NFL Draft. Safeties Jordan Battle (45 career starts), DeMarcco Hellams (29 starts), and Brian Branch (28 starts) have all departed for the league, taking with them loads of experience.

Heading into 2023, there are question marks in the room. However, there is no absence of talent.

Malachi Moore returns as the senior leader, and looks to have a breakout season. Moore has played behind Brian Branch at the star (or nickel) position for the past two seasons, and he started in the nickel as a true freshman in 2020. He was one of the best and most promising defenders on that national championship team. As a sophomore in 2021, Malachi Moore battled injuries and his usage dropped significantly.

Moore was healthier and more involved on both defense and special teams in 2022. He has totaled 92 career tackles, four interceptions, and 16 pass breakups over his three seasons, adding a fumble return for a touchdown and a blocked punt return for a touchdown. Malachi Moore could remain at star or move to deep safety as he returns for his senior year in 2023. Either way, he will be a critical piece of the defense for Alabama Football.

Incoming freshman safety Caleb Downs could immediately join Moore in Bama’s defensive backfield. He could be one of the best recruits of the Saban era, which is no small feat. Downs was ranked as the top safety in the 2023 class, and was widely considered to be the best overall player in the cycle.

Like Malachi Moore, he has playmaking instincts and the ability to play multiple positions in the defensive backfield. Caleb Downs still has to show and prove, but he projects to be a valuable addition to the Crimson Tide defense from day one.

Senior Kristian Story could be a viable option at one of the deep safety spots for Alabama Football. Story has been a reserve throughout his career, stuck behind Battle and Hellams for three years. Still, he has received significant playing time off the bench and always appears to be ready.

Kristian Story has played in 25 games on defense and special teams over the past two years, totaling seven tackles. He has the size and physicality to be a force against the run, but has not had many opportunities to put his coverage skills on display.

Junior safety DeVonta Smith could also be in the mix. Smith has played in 19 games in his two years in Tuscaloosa, primarily contributing on special teams.

A pair of redshirt freshmen, Jake Pope and Antonio Kite, joined Alabama football in the class of 2022 and look to make a jump in year two. Kite can play multiple positions in the secondary. In addition to Caleb Downs, Alabama football welcomes in two more safeties in the class of 2023. 4-star recruits Tony Mitchell and Bray Hubbard will add quality depth to the Bama safety room.

dark. Next. Will youth factor in on the edge?

The Alabama secondary is arguably the most uncertain position group on the roster. I still believe it can be a better unit than what the Tide fielded last year. However the depth chart shakes out, I see Malachi Moore as a leader and Caleb Downs as a playmaker at safety.