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48 Days ‘Til Alabama Football: Anthony Averett emerges as Tide’s lockdown corner

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Ask Obi Wan what happens when the pupil becomes the master.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

It was unknown who would man the corner opposite Marlon Humphrey entering the 2016 season. Tony Brown was indefinitely suspended, Kendall Sheffield’s dad was too impatient to let his son grow at Alabama, Kirby sold Maurice Smith a bill of goods, Geno Smith and Jabriel Washington graduated, Minkah Fitzpatrick was a better rover and star CB than a guy to man the outside. There was potential talent on the roster to be sure, but not a lot of it had seen many snaps or had only seen them in situational play.

However, during Spring, and then later in fall camp, Nick Saban had singled out the steady improvement of redshirt sophomore corner Anthony Averett. Even given the depth chart situation, it was still a surprise to see his name seriously in the mix. Averett had been on campus for three seasons. The most he had played was on special teams and mop-up duty in 2015, where he had a grand total of two tackles in six games.

Nevertheless, the season-opener versus a very tall, athletic USC Trojan team would arrive, and Averett’s name was penned in on the depth chart, not as a starter, but as the Star. Many of us thought that Averett would be picked on as teams shied away from star corner Marlon Humphrey or the playmaking Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Boy, would we be wrong. That opening game prefaced the season. Humphrey would be late on balls, out of position, seemingly distracted off and on, missing a tackle here and there. Nothing major, but certainly not the lockdown effort we had expected. The Tide staff had to rotate Ronnie Harrison to help Humphrey out in some pass situations.

But, we were right on one account -- the Trojans did take their shots at Averett, and did so early and often. Yet, time after time, the 6’, 183-pound Averett was holding his own. Not only did he hold his own, he spearheaded an Alabama secondary that held Southern Cal to just 130 yards in the air. He led all players with 8 tackles off the bench. For his effort, he would be named the defensive player of the game by the Alabama staff.

Averett would not sit on the bench again.

As the season progressed, we saw more and more of what Averett could do. He is not the biggest Tide corner by any stretch, but he has exceptional speed, great footwork, smooth hips, good anticipation and vertical ability, and is a very sure tackler on the boundary. He is one of the most special athletes on the roster.

Beginning with the second game against Western Kentucky, the first start of his career, it was clear Averett was putting together a special season. And, by the time the Tide’s Tennessee game rolled around, he had emerged as a full-fledged terror in the secondary. Averett was all over the field in Neyland, shutting down and punishing the 6’3” 209-pound Jauan Jennings.

The SEC finally got the memo. Teams eventually stopped throwing his direction.

NCAA Football: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl-Alabama vs Washington Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The preseason All-American candidate Marlon Humphrey, one of the heroes of the 2015 Championship game, had just been passed over for the title of “shutdown guy” by a player who made the most of his opportunities on every snap.

It was a remarkable effort, and Averett should have received All-SEC consideration. He led Alabama with 8 pass break-ups, he recorded two TFL, a sack, and forced two fumbles. He also showed how physical he is one-on-one, notching 48 tackes (39 solo!) Feet, speed, long arms, physicality, good technique, better instinct -- Averett is everything you’d want in the position.

In 2017, in a 180-degree role reversal, the expectations are of Averett; he carries the target on his chest and the demand to be the lockdown corner. Enjoy him this year, the New Jersey native has turned heads and is projected as the second-overall corner in the 2018 NFL draft.

48 days ‘til Alabama football.

Roll Tide