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Building the Ultimate Alabama Team: Cornerbacks

As much as any position, the past 20 years have established Alabama as a premier program for corners.

The Crimson Tide team chaplin could STILL whip your ass.
The Crimson Tide team chaplin could STILL whip your ass.

Bobby Johns

When we discussed safeties, we noted that the first Alabama All-American in the secondary was not earned until 1966. That player was Bobby Johns, one of the first lock-down corners of the modern era. He was a mainstay of the 1965 Alabama National Championship team and anchored the secondary of what may be the best defense of the modern era - Bryant's 1966's squad (F U Ara Parseghian.) Johns was a three-time All-SEC performer ('65-67) and a consensus a All-American in '66-'67. He finished his career with 11 interceptions, 2 pick-sixes and 2 FR. (As an aside: Seriously, that 1966 defense was sick: It allowed 44 total points in 11 games; pitched 6 shutouts; allowed double-digits twice (10 and 14 points); and, aside from a tough 11-10 win against the Vols on the road, won every game by double-digits. But, yeah, Sparty and Notre Dame were better. #MDWM)

Kareem Jackson

I could go with Dre here, but at the end of the day, I think Kareem had less supporting cast to work with (see 2007, being abused by Tebow in 2008 etc), but while less consistent than Dre, he did a damned fine job establishing the mold of future Saban corners. A Freshman all-american, and three-year starter, Kareem was physical and a sure tackler, registering 157 total in his career. He accounted for 5 INTs, 1 TD and a more-than-healthy 27 PBUs. Even when Kareem was out of position, he could make a play - got better every single year he played.

Jeremiah Castille

The gold standard of Alabama corners until the Stallings era. Castille set the Alabama record with INTs (16) that would stand until Antonio Langham donned #43. He was incredibly vicious - he hit like a safety and had 156 career tackles to go with his 16 picks and 30 PBUs. He was All-SEC in 1981 and 1982, and a consensus All-American in 1982. His last game in Crimson, Castille gave Coach Bryant his final win -a Liberty Bowl victory against Illinois, by producing three interceptions. Thanks also for the dynasty too: the extended Castille family has provided Alabama players Tim Castille, Caleb Castille and Simeon Castille (to date).

John Mangum

Mangum was as clutch a player as they come. Not as graceful as, say, Langham, all Mangum did was excel. He was rarely out of position and had exceptional open field moves after making a play. He tied Castille's record for INTs in a career (16), had two game-winning INT returns for a TD, and holds Alabama's season and career record for PBUs with 24 and 47, respectively. He was rightly named a consensus All-American in 1989. One of Curry's finest recruits, Stallings inherited an excellent player and somehow made him better.

Don McNeal

McNeal was a sure-tackling corner with excellent ball skills, on a team (and in an era) that was transitioning out of option dominance into pro-set attacks. While his numbers were not off the chart (6 INTs, 19 PBUs), he was incredibly physical and excelled particularly in run support. People remember Barry Kraus' goal line stuff in the 1979 Sugar Bowl against Penn State, but seem to forget McNeal made his own 1-yard stuff the previous play to set up the game-winning iconic moment. McNeal was an All-SEC player in 1977 and 1979 and an All-American in 1979.

Antonio Langham

Bebes could flat out recruit and coach DBs, eh? Langham, though landing Alabama on the NCAA's naughty list, may have been the best pure corner to ever wear Crimson. A two-time All-American and All-SEC player ('92-'93), Langham holds the school record with 19 interceptions -and, more surprisingly, he got more productive with each season. Guys tested his side, and they failed. While Langam only took two picks to the house, they were both huge: against the hated Vols, and there was one in 1992 that was huge, as it gave Alabama its first SEC Championship Game victory over Florida, and earned a slot against #1 Miami in the Bowl Alliance MNC game in New Orleans. I loved watching him play: so fluid, rarely out of place, and a great tackler in the open field.

Dee Milliner

Probably the best corner since Langham. Milliner earned Freshman AA honors in 2010, as a rotational starter (with Kareem and Marquis), and played every game -mostly in nickel/dime formations. As a freshman he had 9 PBUs and led the team with 3 INTs. 2012, he was simply phenomenal: 51 tackles at the corner spot, 2 INTs, and 18 PBUs. He earned all-SEC and unanimous All-American honors that season, and was a Nagurski and Thorpe trophy finalist. Milliner was also a very hard hitter and an all-purpose terror: He finished with 2 FF, a blocked kick, 34 PBUs, 38 PDs and 6 INTs.

Hon. Mentions: Deshea Townsend (Townsend was Javier Arenas, before Javy became cool. All SEC '96, amazingly durable, consistent pro career, Stallings' last shut-down guy); Dre Kirkpatrick (one of the more physical corners out there: FR TD, 3 FF, 91 tackles, 19 PDs, 3 INTs. Big fan favorite and progenitor of Swagga at Alabama); Mark McMillian (Played CB opposite Langham. The little engine that could - all 5'7", 154 pounds of him. There may be guys with better flat 40s, but few who played as fast as "Mighty Mouse." Along with Deion Sanders, probably the quickest guy you'll see with the ball in the air. 3 INTs, INT TD)