Alabama’s secondary received welcomed news Monday, as Alabama head coach Nick Saban announced junior defensive back Tony Brown will be eligible to play in this week’s game against Kentucky.
Saban also announced sophomore defensive lineman Johnny Dwight will be eligible for the game.
Both players missed the Crimson Tide’s first four games while serving out NCAA suspensions. Brown returned to the cornerback unit during practice last week. Saban said the team will look to start him on special teams before working him back into cornerback and Star.
“I think right now, Tony’s got to work on — and I told him this — developing trust in his teammates and the coaches,” Saban said. “He certainly has the ability to play. He’s been an outstanding special teams player for us... I know it’s going to add a little depth at an area where we don’t have a lot of depth. That will definitely be helpful, but I also think it will create some competition with some of the other players that may be helpful as well.”
Last season Brown had 16 tackles while playing primarily special teams. He filled in late in the season at Star after defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick went down with an injury against Mississippi State.
“The last couple of weeks he’s been working really hard,” Fitzpatrick said of Brown. “He’s been staying focused, and he’s really boosting up the team’s energy. That’s what he does all the time, and we know we are going to be really happy to have him out there and add some depth to the secondary.”
Teammates say Brown, a member of Alabama’s track team, is one of the most athletic players on the defense. At 6-foot, 198 pounds, he also offers a physical option for the Tide.
“Tony Brown, he hits like a lineman,” Alabama linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton said. “Expect to see some big hits out of him this weekend.”
Players of the week
Alabama recognized nine players following its 48-0 win against Kent State on Saturday. Tight end O.J. Howard, running back Joshua Jacobs and right tackle Jonah Williams were selected as offensive players of the week, while linebacker Keith Holcombe and defensive Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison were selected as defensive players of the week. Kicker Adam Griffith, punter JK Scott and punt returner Xavian Marks were selected as special teams representatives.
Williams’ selection marks the third time in four weeks the true freshman has been handed player of the week honors. A former five-star recruit, Williams has started all four games at right tackle this season.
“He’s just technically very sound,” Saban said. “He’s very athletic, a very smart guy and just does a really good job of executing. Another one of guys that can take what you, sort of, coach him and bring it to the table and do it on a consistent basis.”
Williams is just the second true freshman to start on the Tide’s offensive line since Saban took over the team in 2007. Starting left guard Ross Pierschbacher refers to Williams as “freaky smart” and said the freshman is always staying late after practice in order to improve his game.
“He knows what he wants and he just goes out there,” Pierschbacher said. “I think all the goals he sets is what sets him apart from other people. Just coming out of high school some guys are trying to feel their way through, and he knows exactly what he wants. I think that really pushes him and keeps him focused on the goals that he has.”
After opening up as 31-point favorites heading into Saturday’s game against Kentucky, the Tide has now climbed to 35-point favorites according to Vegasinsiders.com. The point spread is the highest Alabama has been favored in for a SEC matchup under Saban, topping a 2012 game against Auburn where the Tide was a 34-point favorite.
In that game Alabama covered the spread, beating Auburn 49-0.
Kentucky’s previous high was in a 2011 trip to Georgia where the Wildcats were a 30.5-point underdog to the Bulldogs. Kentucky covered the spread in a 19-10 loss.
Saban sad to see Miles go
Saban and former LSU head coach have shared several memorable matchups on the field over the years. However, with Miles firing on Sunday the two will not be able to renew their rivalry this season.
Monday, Saban expressed his disappointment in seeing the departure of one of his “most respected colleagues.”
“I kind of hated that a man wins a national championship, wins two SEC titles and doesn’t make it through the season,” Saban said. “It is what it is, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for Les Miles and what he was able to accomplish there, the number of wins he had.”
Saban likened the move to Georgia getting rid of Mark Richt after several successful seasons as head coach of the Bulldogs.
“I guess this is the time that we live in,” Saban said. “Everybody needs to know that, but it doesn’t minimize to any degree the amount of respect that I have for the job that Les Miles did at LSU, the great competitive teams that he’s had there for a long, long time and the amount of success that he’s had. And certainly wish him and his family well.”
Miles replaced Saban at LSU after Saban left to become the head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2005. Saban holds a 7-3 advantage in head-to-head meetings against Miles, including a 21-0 victory in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game. Saban has also won the last five meetings between the two coaches.