Entering the 2024 Alabama Football season, one of the biggest question marks is who is going to step in at cornerback. The position group came into question with Kool-Aid McKinstry and Terrion Arnold entering the NFL Draft. Trey Amos was slated to see an increased role after playing a key role in 2023. Amos has now entered the transfer portal joining fellow defensive backs Earl Little II, Antonio Kite, Kristian Story, and Dezz Ricks.
On paper, the replacements for Arnold and McKinstry were seemingly Trey Amos and incoming transfer Domani Jackson with Earl Little II slotting into the third cornerback spot. With two of the three out of the picture now the cornerback position is a massive concern entering 2024. The third option, Domani Jackson, seemingly committed to play for Nick Saban and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson, so it's unclear whether or not he'll transfer.
If Jackson decides to play for the Alabama Football team he'll certainly be the team's top cornerback. At USC the past two seasons Jackson's played more than any of the returning players on the Alabama Football team. In 2023, Jackson recorded 25 tackles and three pass defenses while starting for the Trojans.
Outside of Jackson, there are really no cornerbacks returning with significant experience. The secondary will return DeVonta Smith, Bray Hubbard, Tony Mitchell, and Jahlil Hurley. Smith missed most of 2023 with an injury but he recorded three tackles after returning. Hurley and Mitchell were both five-star recruits at one point in their recruitment and they'll have a serious chance to earn significant time at cornerback. Smith can't be ruled out either as a former four-star recruit with talent and more experience than Mitchell and Hurley.
The true contenders will also include one of the more talented recruiting classes the Alabama Football program has ever brought in at cornerback. If everyone stays with the Alabama Football team the group will include talented cornerbacks Jaylen Mbakwe, Zavier Mincey, Zabien Brown, and Dre Kirkpatrick Jr. Mbakwe has made it clear he plans to stay with the team while Kirkpatrick will seemingly stay at the school his father played for. It's unclear if Zabien Brown will stay with the coaching changes as he was recruited by Holmon Wiggins. The same goes for Zavier Mincey who was heavily recruited by Travaris Robinson.
If all four playm they all have the ability to compete for the starting cornerback position from day one. With no clear next man up, they might just win the job. While not being the highest-ranked recruit of the group, Zavier Mincey may be the most polished of the group. Mincey was a standout at the All-American Bowl with an impressive interception in man coverage.
Mbakwe is the highest rated recruit of the group as a five-star recruit and that's for good reason. Jaylen Mbakwe could've easily been one of the top wide receiver recruits in the country as a standout on both sides of the football. He's also one of the fastest players in the country, winning the fastest man competition at the Under Armour All-American Game beating out Ryan Williams with a 4.48 forty-yard dash. If Mbakwe doesn't start at cornerback from day one he'll have a chance to be a difference maker in the return game as well as potentially on offense.
Zabien Brown is the third-ranked cornerback recruit in the country and may have ranked higher on recruiting boards if not for injuries in his senior season. Brown showed great ability in man coverage and a willingness to tackle at Mater Dei High School. Brown was another standout at the All-American Bowl and will have a chance to make a big impact from day one.
While there's uncertainty about who's going to be the cornerback coach for the Alabama Football team with Travaris Robinson's departure, one signee has been getting some of the best coaching anyone could ask for. Dre Kirkpatrick Jr. has had the benefit of learning from his dad, a former Alabama Football standout and two-time second-team All-SEC cornerback. Despite being only a three-star recruit, Kirkpatrick Jr. has flashed his talent lately with two interceptions, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a blocked punt in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game playing with future teammates Jaylen Mbakwe, Quinton Reese, and Jeremiah Beaman.
Alabama Football: Could transfers be on the way?
While there's little experience returning at cornerback that could easily change in the next few days. Former Washington cornerbacks Dyson McCutchen and Jabbar Muhammed have entered the transfer portal. Muhammed is the third-ranked cornerback in the transfer portal just edging out incoming Alabama Football transfer Domani Jackson. Muhammed was dominant for the Huskies in 2023 recording 46 tackles, two sacks, 14 pass deflections, and three interceptions. McCutchen hasn't played much yet at Washington totaling just four tackles this past season.