When the top-ranked Alabama defense is referenced, the line and linebackers typically steal the spotlight.
By leading the nation in stopping the run, arguing with that credit becomes difficult.
The secondary, however, is starting to carve out its own niche. Playing with a few spare parts just like the linebackers against South Carolina, the Tide defensive backs grabbed some of the attention away from the big bodies up front.
With cornerback and nickelback Javier Arenas a late scratch because of a rib injury, Marquis Johnson and Tyrone King were called in for extra duties.
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Johnson tied a school record with six pass-breakups and King, listed at third-string free safety, stepped in at nickelback to record seven tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Those efforts, combined with the front seven, helped the Tide move up to No. 1 nationally in pass efficiency defense.
For King, finding out his services were needed in warm-ups Saturday brought on a few pregame nerves.
“I just had to get the butterflies out first,” the soft-spoken senior said.
Johnson, on the other hand, is considerably less shy.
As a cornerback, having three straight passes thrown his direction on identical routes could be taken as an insult.
That’s not the case for Johnson.
In fact, he was thankful South Carolina threw those three straight fade routes to the receiver he was covering Saturday night. He broke up all three on the way to his record-tying night.
“I thanked them for coming my way,” he said. “It builds your confidence play after play after play. And you keep repeatedly do the same things that you practice every day: Technique, technique.”
Johnson later said he saw an NFL game where eight-time cornerback Champ Bailey had three straight passes come his direction, so he didn’t feel alone.
Both Johnson and King joined Rolando McClain and Lorenzo Washington as team defensive players of the week as selected by the Tide coaching staff.
Heading into the 3:30 p.m. Saturday game with Tennessee, Arenas appears healthy enough to make his return. But if he’s not, Johnson and King said they’d be ready for the extra playing time.
“I prepare every week like that,” Johnson said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”
Notes: On the injury front, Alabama coach Nick Saban said the minor injuries that kept a few of his players off the field last Saturday are healing. Arenas (ribs), Josh Chapman (abdominal), and Dre Kirkpatrick (back) practiced through the week and appear to be available for Saturday’s game. Saban also said linebackers Cory Reamer and Chris Jordan had “bumps and bruises, but working their way through it.” … The school issued a news release Thursday warning fans of phony football tickets in the resale market. “Unfortunately, those tickets sold on the Internet and by individuals around the stadium and on campus on game day — led to some fans being defrauded,” the release stated.