Alabama lost two members of its starting secondary, Eddie Jackson and Marlon Humphrey. Though, with Jackson’s midseason injury, the team had seven full games with his replacement. Minkah Fitzpatrick moved to safety, and Tony Brown saw his role increase, replacing Fitzpatrick at star (the nickel CB). Both return, leaving Bama to really only have to replace Humphrey.
Fitzpatrick spent the first week or so of spring practice at cornerback but has since moved back to safety, and that seems to be his likely landing spot. Tony Brown thrived at star last season, and he looks primed to play either there or outside. Lately, Trevon Diggs, a rising sophomore who has converted back to defensive back after spending much of 2016 on the offensive side of the ball, has gotten first team reps at cornerback opposite Anthony Averett.
Another rising sophomore to keep an eye on is Shyheim Carter. He’s got solid size, listed at 6’0 190lbs. He came to Alabama as a four star recruit and the #9 cornerback in the Class of 2016. Carter committed to Bama his junior year in high school, the appropriately named Kentwood High School in Kentwood, Louisiana. He then decommitted early in August to reevaluate things but ultimately recommitted to the Tide on National Signing Day.
Carter was thrust into early action against Ole Miss last year after some injuries and acquitted himself fairly well. There were some freshman mistakes, of course, like this one:
Carter is on the slot receiver, about five yards off the line. He gets caught watching Chad Kelly too long here and doesn’t get turned around quickly enough. The receiver runs by him; and, while Carter does recover and close, the receiver has just enough room for Kelly to drop a well-placed by there. It’s not awful coverage, though. Carter turned to look for the ball and tried to swat at it; Kelly just took advantage of the initial mistake and threw a great pass.
Carter still recorded five total tackles, including four solo ones, against Ole Miss.
He would add one tackle each against Mississippi State and Florida.
Carter entered the spring in prime position to compete for the coveted opening, and he has seen time with the first and second team as the coaching staff tries to find the right grouping.
Despite Tony Brown’s emergence at star last season, he does have experience on the outside. Carter’s best chance at starting is for Brown to move back there, opening up the star position. With a stellar A-Day and fall camp, he could surpass Brown, but the veteran defensive back’s experience - and talent - make that difficult.
Whether the coaching staff moves Brown back outside remains to be seen, however, especially with Trevon Diggs earning early rave reviews at corner. Even if Carter doesn’t end up starting this year, he is in line for an increased role as the primary back-up at star. With a strong A-Day, Carter can make his case to start and, at the very least, solidify his spot as first man up in case of injury.