Landon Collins a lock at safety for Tide

Tide must fill other holes in secondary

Anniston StarMarch 14, 2014 

Arkansas Alabama Football

Alabama defensive back Landon Collins will likely play a safety position for the Crimson Tide next season, but the loss of other players like defensive back HaHa Clinton-Dix means the team must rebuild in the secondary. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama begins spring practice today, but before the Crimson Tide officially take the practice field, we still have a few more positions to breakdown. Here's a look at defensive back, the Tide's second biggest question mark heading into the 2014 season.

Departed: HaHa Clinton-Dix, Vinnie Sunseri, Deion Belue

Ready for spring: Landon Collins, rising junior; Nick Perry, senior; Jarrick Williams, senior; Bradley Sylve, junior; Cyrus Jones, junior; Geno Smith, junior; Eddie Jackson, sophomore; Maurice Smith, sophomore; Jai Miller, sophomore; Jabriel Washington, junior; Jonathan Cook, redshirt freshman; Anthony Averett, redshirt freshman; Tony Brown, incoming freshman; Laurence "Hootie" Jones, incoming freshman.

Coming in the fall: Marlon Humphrey, Ronnie Clark

Outlook: Every year, Nick Saban's teams lose one of its top defensive backs. But following the 2013 season, the Crimson Tide will be without three of its top four defensive backs from a year ago as Clinton-Dix, Sunseri and Belue have all moved on leaving holes in the secondary.

Collins will undoubtedly fill one of the safety positions. He's one of a few players that you can pencil as a lock to start. Last season, he recorded 70 total tackles, two interceptions, six pass breakups, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Collins will be one of the top safety prospects heading into the season and another big year will put him on the three-and-done list of players to leave early for the NFL along with T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper.

Collins has shown the versatility to play both strong and free safety, but his natural position is strong. He's also a demon on special teams and will likely take on more of a leadership role this season.

Then there are seniors Perry and Williams.

Perry was granted a fifth-year of eligibility after a shoulder injury ended his season earlier. He'll be a major player in the competition at free safety.

Williams posted solid numbers last season and at times looked like the Tide's most reliable defensive back. He's a strong safety type with nice coverage skills as he's shown when playing the star or money positions.

Smith now has a year of experience at under his belt at safety after being converted from cornerback heading into the 2013 season. Smith has great range and cover skills and would make a nice compliment piece to Collins if the Tide decide to play both juniors in the back half of the secondary.

Washington and Miller could also push for playing time with both having more experience and knowledge of the schemes.

At cornerback, it'll be a toss up.

There's plenty of talent, but the question becomes who can consistently perform at a high level?

After the struggles the position had last season, no job is safe.

Jones, Jackson, Smith and Sylve are the three returners who played the most last year.

Sylve played well until a high ankle sprain sidelined him and pushed him down the depth chart. As a true freshmen, both Jackson and Smith showed flashes of brilliance, but also lacked consistency and looked lost at times.

Jones is an interesting case. While his struggles are well documented, he also showed some good things throughout the course of the season with five pass breakups and two interceptions. Jones was in his first year at cornerback after playing wide receiver during his first season.

Newcomer Tony Brown will also have a say in how the cornerback spots fill out. He's a physical-gifted corner with world class track speed. There's be a learning curve, but the five star prospect will be hard to keep off the field. Enrolling early helps tremendously as he'll have extra time with Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.

Also, Marlon Humphrey could push for one of the positions. While he won't arrive until the summer, Humphrey has all of the tools necessary to play early. Like Brown, the five star prospect is an elite talent with elite speed.

Who will be Alabama's next starting quarterback will be the biggest question mark heading into the season, but who'll will start in the secondary may be even more important. During the 2009 and 2011 national championship runs, Alabama showed it can win it all with new starting quarterbacks. But both of those squads had established secondaries with at least one shutdown cornerback and a top notch safety.

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