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Who will carry the Ball Out Belt for the Alabama defense in 2017?

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40.7% of Bama takeaways were converted into scores last season. Can they continue that trend?

NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Alabama vs Florida
A Regular fixture around the Tide sideline has been The Ball Out Belt.
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

It is funny to think that a mere two years ago, I wrote a post pining for ball hawks from the Crimson Tide defense. My wish was granted and then some! The 2014 defense was good but their turnover margin was oddly in the negative (-2). It was +3 the year before that but jumped to +10 in 2015. Last season it was again +10 but the defense was converting those turnovers into scores at a furious rate.

The Crimson Tide defense and special teams had an unbelievable 15 non-offensive touchdowns in the 2016 campaign, scored by 10 different players. As a team, they had 27 takeaways with 11 taken to the house. That is a stunning 40.7% of turnovers converted into scores.

Player TD PICK 6 S&S PR BlkPuRet
Eddie Jackson* 3 1 2
Ronnie Harrison 2 1 1
Minkah Fitzpatrick 2 2
Jonathan Allen* 2 2
Ryan Anderson* 1 1
Marlon Humphrey* 1 1
Tim Williams* 1 1
Da'Ron Payne 1 1
Xavian Marks 1 1
Josh Jacobs 1 1

* Moved on to the NFL
S&S = Scoop & Score (fumble return for TD); PR = Punt Return; BlkPuRet = Blocked Punt Return

Those numbers are going to be tough to top.

Five Crimson Tide players who had non-offensive scores last season have moved up to the pro ranks. However, ball hawks Ronnie Harrison and Minkah Fitzpatrick both return for their junior season.

So, which Alabama players have potential for scoring a non-offensive touchdown in 2017?

MINKAH FITZPATRICK

This first team All-American has a nose for the ball... and the end zone. In just two seasons, the rising junior has four pick-sixes and blocked a punt against Georgia that he returned for a score. His opportunities for more scores will depend upon where he lines up on Saturdays this fall. If he mans the corner position, there is less chance that quarterbacks will attempt to pass to his side. If he is at safety, there is a higher possibility for a pick or two... or three. That said, I could see a scoop and score in his future. 1-1 chance he’ll find the end zone in 2017.

ANTHONY AVERETT

Double-A has developed into a fine corner and had a shutdown season in 2016. He led the team in pass break ups with eight and also forced two fumbles, creating opportunities for others. However, he has yet to possess the ball himself. If he is the cornerback opposite Minkah, he will get picked on a good bit. If Minkah returns to safety, offenses will more often pass to receivers he is not covering. 9-1

RONNIE HARRISON

Harrison has a wild petal-to-the-metal style of play that finds him always in the mix of things on defense. In two seasons at the Capstone, he has four interceptions and 13 pass break ups. He also has a blocked punt and a blocked field goal attempt. It would be unwise to underestimate him in 2017. 2-1

TONY BROWN

It is amazing to think that the fastest man on the field has yet to put points on the board, but he has not. It has been a bumpy ride for the rising senior but he should see the most playing time of his career in 2017. 5-1

TREVON DIGGS

It is only a matter of time before he runs a punt return back for a score. He almost achieved that goal against Florida in the SECCG. Diggs does not seem as polished as a defender, so the chances there may be limited. But as a kick returner, the odds look good. 3-1

THE REST OF THE SECONDARY

Hootie Jones? Shyheim Carter? Jared Mayden? Other? Maybe. 10-1

SHAUN DION HAMILTON

SDH hopes to be the next great linebacker in Alabama lore but he is coming off a devastating ACL tear in the SEC Championship Game. 8-1

RASHAAN EVANS

The opportunities in Saban’s defense for MLBs to return a pick or S&S for a score are there. 7-1

Yoink!

OTHER LINEBACKERS

Between Dylan Moses, Keith Holcombe, Terrell (Hall) Lewis, Anfernee Jennings, Christian Miller, someone is bound to find the end zone. 3-1

THE BIG’NS

Most of this edition of the D-line are fine football players but probably not quite to the standards of Jonathan “Superman” Allen. Da'Ron Payne did rumble to a 3-yard S&S against Ole Miss last season but that might be a tough task to duplicate. That said, these defensive lineman are a special breed of mass, power and speed. Among Da'Shawn Hand, Isaiah Buggs, Raekwon Davis, Quinnen Williams and perhaps LaBryan Ray, someone could find themselves with the ball in their hands and nothing but green ahead. 15-1

KICK RETURN

Diggs was already covered above. He likely handles the bulk of punt returns and will share kickoff returns with Xavian Marks who ran a punt back against Kent State last year. There is a good chance some of these amazing freshman wide receivers coming in could get a look at returning. 8-1

FOR THE RECORD

Alabama fans were spoiled on non-offensive touchdowns over the last two seasons. Let’s hope they can continue the trend.

Year PuRet Pick 6 KO Ret S&S Total
2016 4 6 0 5 15
2015 5 4 1 0 10
2014 0 0 0 1 1
2013 3 3 1 0 7
2012 0 1 1 1 3
2011 1 3 0 1 5
2010 1 2 1 0 4
2009 1 2 0 1 4

Poll

Realistically, how many non-offensive touchdowns for Alabama in the coming season?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    5 or under
    (72 votes)
  • 48%
    6 to 8
    (289 votes)
  • 19%
    9 or 10
    (117 votes)
  • 19%
    11 or more
    (117 votes)
595 votes total Vote Now