Spring Football Practice Update: Defense

Otto Greule Jr

Much of the news made in Alabama's first two spring practices was made in the defensive backfield, where there is actually quite a bit to report. Several new guys are working back there, while a potential starter is sidelined by injury.

For starters, the Crimson Tide has three brand spanking new cornerbacks: Cyrus Jones, Dee Hart, and Christion Jones--at least for right now. Right now is the operative phrase, though, as Nick Saban said flat-out in his presser following the first spring practice that "These are not permanent moves, none of them. They're experiments."

Cyrus Jones was lost in the mile-deep depth chart at wide receiver, and Christion Jones, too, did not figure to get as much playing time as he did last year, when the position was absolutely hammered by injury. The Jones non-brothers' joint problem figures to be exacerbated with the arrival on campus of talented newcomers like Robert Foster, ArDarius Stewart and Raheem Falkins. Dee Hart was facing a similar logjam at running back.

Despite Saban's protestation of the experimental nature of these moves, whether any of these guys ever returns to the brutal competitions they came from is an open question. Christion Jones is flopping between wideout and cornerback in the spring, but that might be simply because wideout needs depth in the spring, with Kevin Norwood held out for turf toe rehabilitation and DeAndrew White still recovering from an in-season ACL. On the other hand, adding all three to cornerback would create a logjam at that position.

Still photos released by the athletic department showed all three of the newcomers in coverage, and all three in good defensive position. But what does a single cherry-picked still photo tell you about coverage skills? Not much. Good news, though, are the reports that Hart is reportedly looking swift and agile in his attempt to return from his second ACL injury, despite the bulky brace on his right knee and the black no-contact jersey on his back. Competition will be the real test, but this makes it seem more likely Hart will actually see some.

Meanwhile, one of last year's conversion-from-offense projects, Bradley Sylve, is said to be in the mix for playing time and perhaps even the starting job at cornerback or star.

8 of the 9 newcomers already on campus are on the other side of the ball, but the one new defender, walk-on safety Jai Miller, can't help but be noticed. 10 years ago, Alabama lost a competition with Stanford for the now 28-year-old ex-baseballer's services, but he never played a down at Palo Alto. Instead, he played 10 years in the minor leagues and got the chance to guzzle a couple quick cups of coffee in the bigs. His best year was in 2011, when he socked 32 dingers for AAA Sacramento, an A's farm club. Miller only has two major league homers, but I wouldn't be surprised if that is two more than everybody else in the SEC combined.

Miller looks the part of a professional athlete. He is both stocky and swift, and the head coach praised his athleticism in his Saturday press conference . However, while approvingly noting Miller's progress during the scrimmage, Saban also said of the man who has spent ten years out of organized football that "Everything is new to him." Miller still has 5 to play 4, so he has time to learn if he is so inclined. If he were to stick it out the full 5 years, he would be 33 years old when he departs the Capstone.

Another guy making an impression in the defensive backfield is Jarrick Williams. Of Alabama's multiple ACL victims last year (ouch), Williams was the first to go down, in August, and consequently he is the nearest to fully healthy. In fact, from all reports, as well as from a published photograph showing him skying for a tipped ball, Williams is so close to fully healthy that he looks, well, fully healthy. The redshirt junior should be considered a player for the starting position across from Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

Making less of an impression is John Fulton. Fulton, a senior, has a shot at a starting cornerback job, but he is "probably pretty sure" questionable for the whole spring, says his head coach. Spending the spring exercising on the sideline, which is what Fulton has done so far, is not going to help him win that job.

Xzavier Dickson is personally responsible for a big chunk of the sparse news at both linebacker and defensive line. Dickson, the starting jack last year, was switched to defensive line for Saturday's practice, but then was back at linebacker on Monday. That's two news items folks,count 'em, two. Otherwise, with most positions both on the line and at linebacker relatively set, all that's left to report is that C.J. Mosley is in a black jersey recovering from what was said to be minor shoulder surgery. If anybody on the defense can afford to miss the spring, it's Mosley.

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