Case Can Be Made Tide Corners Will Shine

Cyrus Jones

A few weeks ago I was listening to a national radio show discussing college football. To my surprise, the guest “expert” was a writer for the web site that provides more misinformation and fuzzy thinking on sports than all others put together. I won’t say what that site is, but on a side note, the BLEACHERS have been taken down at Sewell-Thomas Baseball Stadium preparatory to renovations.

But back to the radio discussion of Alabama. This so-called expert who was being interviewed – and who is an Auburn alumnus – could not say enough negative about Crimson Tide football. He called quarterback Blake Sims “terrible” and Cooper Bateman “a bad quarterback.” You have to have a lot of hate in you to characterize college football players who you have seen almost not at all with such venom.

And then he got to the secondary. He said that Alabama’s cornerbacks were both horrible and horribly coached.

I thought, “This guy must really be an expert to, basically, call Nick Saban a horrible coach.” Saban coaches the Crimson Tide cornerbacks.

But, I also thought, there is, perhaps, more than coincidence that the expert’s initials are BS.

I would be the first to agree that Alabama cornerback play was not up to what it has been in recent years. But think what it has been.

In 2013, Dee Milliner was the first cornerback taken in the NFL draft, the ninth player taken overall.

In 2012, Dre Kirkpatrick was taken in the first round of the NFL draft, the 17th player taken.

In 2010, Kareem Jackson was taken in the first round, the 20th player taken.

All were juniors.

And guess who coached them all? Maybe they were just talented enough to overcome Saban’s horrible coaching.

I also checked to see how Alabama did defensively last year. As usual, Bama had the Southeastern Conference’s number one defense overall. And it was helped by being second in the league in pass defense. (The expert’s favorite team was 12th in overall defense and 13th in pass defense, but I didn’t hear him call any of Auburn’s players “bad” or “terrible” or say that any Auburn coaches did a horrible job.)

While not many who know anything about football would call Saban a horrible coach, most would agree that Alabama’s cornerbacks did not perform up to usuable standards last season.

At the risk of giving the Bama-haters a target, part of the problem was that the cornerback with the most experience, Deion Belue, had a toe injury that plagued him throughout the season. Bama ended up with another cornerback starting – Cyrus Jones -- who was converted from wide receiver. Jones, an upcoming junior, is 5-10, 204. He got his first significant defensive playing time against Texas A&M last year after Belue went out with an injury, and Jones turned in an end zone interception off Johnny Manziel in Bama’s one-touchdown victory. He played in 11 games with five starts and had 25 tackles, two interceptions, and five pass break-ups.

It doesn’t hurt to have speed at the cornerback position, and Alabama has that. Most consider wide receiver Amari Cooper the team’s fastest player, but he’s got some company in the speed department, primarily in the secondary. Junior left cornerback Bradley Sylve (5-11, 180) would get some support as the team’s fastest, as would freshman Tony Brown (6-0, 190), who went through spring practice and who showed in the A-Day Game that he could run with Cooper. There’s another speedster joining the fray in fall camp in Marlon Humphrey (6-1, 180) – like Brown a track star, along with being a cornerback.

Sophomore Eddie Jackson (6-0, 188) was running with the first defense in the spring until suffering a knee injury in a scrimmage. Saban has said he expects Jackson to return this season, though he didn’t say if that meant with the start of fall camp. Soph Maurice Smith (6-0, 195) has also shown promise at cornerback.

Geno Smith (6-0, 197) has had experience as both a cornerback and safety in his first two seasons at Bama and is expected to challenge for the starting job at safety this year.

Redshirt freshman Jonathan Cook (6-0, 190) was considered a cornerback prospect when he signed with Alabama, but now may be in the picture at safety.

Alabama often uses an fifth back (star). These players tend to be safety types, but can’t be ruled out as cornerbacks. Among those who have showed up well as a nickel back is senior Jarrick Williams (6-1, 215). Junior Jabriel Washington (5-11, 183) and versatile redshirt freshman Anthony Averett (6-0, 180) are candidates for playing time in the secondary.

It’s hard to predict which two might be the starting cornerbacks, but it would be foolish to think they won’t be good athletes who are well coached.

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