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16 for ‘16: Anthony Averett proves he’s a lockdown corner

From unknown variable to most consistent, Anthony Averett has shown tremendous growth in 2016

Always known as a speedster with raw technique, Anthony Averett has been a back up for the first three years of his career. Suddenly, with the graduation of Cyrus Jones, he was thrust into the starting cornerback role opposite Marlon Humphrey in 2016.

His game against USC was memorable in that it gave most Alabama fans a stomach-ache with shades of the Tide secondary from 2013-2014 getting repeatedly beat with bombs down the sidelines. USC challenged Averett deep down his side of the field, and he was beat both times (though fortunately, the receiver dropped one of them).

In game two, the high powered passing offense of Western Kentucky went directly at him again, and again, Tide faithful were groaning.

Then the rest of the season happened. It seemed like we never again saw Averett the rest of the season, except occasionally in run support (where, to my memory, I don’t think he missed a single tackle all season). He morphed into a lockdown corner right before our eyes, and quarterbacks completely quit challenging him.

Until Mississippi State, that is. DoctorWhosOnFirst has a great breakdown of his entire game here, but I have one specific play that really got my attention.

Averett is tasked with one of the most difficult moments a cornerback can face: man-to-man press coverage against a receiver not on the line of scrimmage. His man, Donald Gray releases deep and manages to get a step on Averett down the field. The throw is perfect, but Anthony Averett does something that it seems we haven’t seen an Alabama cornerback do in years: he finds the ball in the air, even as he’s sprinting to keep up with the receiver, and makes a diving one-handed swat.

Not only did it require insane speed to be able recover the ground he lost on the deep route, but the athleticism he showcased by jumping that far without breaking stride is other-worldly. It was also a clinic in keeping your wits in and displaying exceptional coordination, balance, and body-control in what is probably the most high-speed situation in all of sports.

To me, this moment signaled just how great of a player Anthony Averett has become in 2016. He has embodied the Process by displaying patience and hard work to combine his speed with football prowess over the past few years, and then a willingness to learn and improve even after winning the starting job.