As the game moves more to positionless play, let’s not forget that once upon a time, Alabama recruited to a specific body type to play a specific position.
Today, we’re voting on the strong safeties — the run-stuffing, centerfielders that allow the free safeties to get all of the glory. You’ll notice that very often, players would move back and forth as their bodies developed and as their skills sets were revealed. And, of course, in Saban’s defense it is very hard to pinpoint just one position (the defensive backfield is very fluid.)
With that in mind, here’s the SS depth for the past decade (via University of Alabama football archives):
2008: Mark Barron, Justin Woodall
2009: Mark Barron, Ali Sharrief, Rod Woodson
2010: Mark Barron, Will Lowery (this entire group would move to FS in 2011 — in this order on the depth chart.)
2011: Robert Lester, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Vinnie Sunseri and Nick Perry had to play special teams and fight for playing time.)
2012: Robert Lester, Nick Perry (Check out the free safeties that year — Landon Collins, Vinnie Sunseri, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix — and they needed to be good considering the corners Alabama rolled with.)
2013: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Nick Perry (don’t look at the DB depth chart that year — you’ll get flashbacks)
2014: Landon Collins, Jarrick Williams, Hootie Jones
2015: Geno Matias-Smith, Jabriel Washington, Hootie Jones, Ronnie Harrison (the guy playing second-team Star and FS that year was pretty good too, I hear.)
2016: Hootie Jones, Ronnie Harrison, Jared Mayden
2017: Ronnie Harrison, Deionte Thompson, Xavier McKinney, Jared Mayden
QUESTION OF THE DAY: Which season had the best Alabama Strong Safeties?
I’m going with 2011. By season’s end, Robert Lester and the freshman Ha-Ha Clinton Dix were machines. Physical, fast, strong, and they had a knack for creating a well-timed turnover. This may not be the hardest hitters of the bunch (Justin Woodall / Mark Barron, or the Collins / Hootie tandem may have that honor,) or the most natively talented, but it probably was the most feared when a play went their way.