The future of the Alabama secondary without Nick Saban

Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan
Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

It was no secret that Coach Nick Saban specialized in cornerback and secondary play. Sure, he produced results at every position on the field. But Saban could always be counted on to land the best defensive backs in the country and develop them into priority NFL draft picks, winning a lot of games along the way. 

With Coach Saban now retired, Alabama will have to make some adaptations. Coach Kalen DeBoer’s wheelhouse is on the offensive side of the ball, but what does that mean for a defensive-minded program like Alabama Football?

First and foremost, I believe the program’s identity transcends the coach and will remain intact. Additionally, Coach DeBoer is keenly aware of the importance of the defensive side of the ball and has built his staff accordingly.

Defensive coordinator Kane Wommack is a rising star in the coaching business, and secondary coaches Maurice Linguist and Colin Hitschler were big-time hires that will help with recruiting and development alike. 

Bama’s 2024 secondary outlook

Alabama’s current secondary has some clear holes and question marks, and will have more to prove than any other position group on the team. The Tide spent the entire spring pursuing transfer corners, and some of the setbacks it faced were indications that the Saban era was indeed over. 

Bama will rely on USC transfer Domani Jackson to play at an All-SEC level, and will also need one or two more players to pan out on the perimeter. Wake Forest transfer DaShawn Jones and true freshman Zabien Brown are the expected leaders to claim the other starting spot. In the nickel, Devonta Smith and freshman Red Morgan are also unproven in game situations. 

Bama is in a little better position at safety, with Malachi Moore and Keon Sabb as the projected starters. Still, safety depth is a question and Moore will have to be fairly seamless in his position change. He is a versatile DB who has experience at safety, but he has played closer to the line of scrimmage for much of his Alabama career. Personally, I thought he was an ideal fit at the Star or Husky position. 

Looking towards the future

Bama’s youth in the secondary may be a problem in 2024, but it will pay dividends going forward. The future is bright with 5-star recruits Zabien Brown, Jaylen Mbakwe, and Zay Mincey all working hard to develop. Red Morgan, Dre Kirkpatrick Jr., Bray Hubbard, and Kam Howard are also solid building blocks for the future. 

We don’t have a huge sample size with which to grade the current staff, but they are off to a good start in terms of defensive back recruiting

Athletes Derick Smith and Zymear Smith could be impact players in the secondary if they end up playing defense. Bama’s most recent commit, 4-star cornerback Chuck McDonald, is yet another technically sound prospect in the fold. Alabama is also in the hunt for 5-star Ohio State commit Na’eem Offord and top-100 player Dijon Lee, among others.

The Bama secondary may never be the same as it was under Coach Saban. After all, Saban was one of the greatest coaches and defensive back developers the game has ever seen. Still, I think the current staff will be just fine. The early recruiting returns indicate that there won’t be a massive talent dropoff, and I trust the abilities of Linguist and Hitschler to put these guys in positions to succeed.