Will the Crimson Tide be good enough at corner?

Mar 21, 2024; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Defensive back Domani Jackson jogs to a drill during practice at the University Alabama Thursday.
Mar 21, 2024; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Defensive back Domani Jackson jogs to a drill during practice at the University Alabama Thursday. / Gary Cosby Jr.-Tuscaloosa News / USA

The Alabama coaching staff put a lot of effort into shoring up the cornerback position this offseason, ultimately landing two transfers to pair with a collection of talented freshmen. Did the Tide do enough to bolster this position room?

Bama faces the near-impossible task of replacing Terrion Arnold and Kool-Aid McKinstry, a shutdown tandem that made Alabama one of the nation’s best pass defenses last season. Both Arnold and McKinstry became priority NFL Draft selections, and the Crimson Tide also lost several developmental pieces to the transfer portal. 

Alabama will enter 2024 with a retooled cornerback room that was essentially built from scratch. The Tide was fortunate to retain the vast majority of Coach Nick Saban’s final recruiting class, which included standouts like 5-star corners Zabien Brown, Zay Mincey, and Jaylen Mbakwe. In a relatively thin position room, these players may have to contribute as true freshmen. 

Mbakwe was the highest-ranked high school prospect of the bunch as the no. 12 overall player in the country, and Mincey is a physical specimen at 6’3”. However, Zabien Brown might be the most ready to play in year one. Brown, a product of Mater Dei High School in Southern California, is very technically savvy and was impressive during the spring practice period. 

All three of these freshmen will play roles to some extent, as Alabama only has three other scholarship corners on the roster.

Redshirt freshman Jahlil Hurley was a top-100 player out of Florence in the 2023 cycle. Though he didn’t see the field for Alabama last season, he has a year of experience in high-level college football as well as a collegiate strength and conditioning program. Hurley stuck around when several other members of his class transferred, so clearly he believes he can compete. 

Most analysts have penciled in portal additions Domani Jackson and DaShawn Jones as Alabama’s de facto starting cornerbacks. It makes sense, as the transfers from USC and Wake Forest respectively are the only corners on the roster with legitimate playing experience. Skeptics are concerned that neither was a standout player at their previous stops despite playing in lesser conferences. Will the pair be able to adapt to life in the SEC, where they will face future NFL receivers on a weekly basis?

Optimistically speaking, the step up in competition could benefit Jackson and Jones. Along the same lines, both could improve drastically with the better coaching and surrounding cast they will have at Alabama. 

Regardless of who ultimately starts, I think the talent will shine through in this position room. Bama’s corners may take some lumps early in the season, but I believe they will be competing at a championship level by November.

Though DaShawn Jones was graded as a 3-star in the 2021 class, every other player in the room is a former top-100 player. Four of the Tide’s six corners are former 5-star recruits who will all push each other to improve. When the cream rises to the top in fall camp, Alabama should be just fine at corner.