One constant during the Saban dynasty has been elite play in the back end of the defense. From Mark Barron to Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to Landon Collins to Eddie Jackson to Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama fans have become spoiled to having at least one top end talent. While there is experienced talent on the roster, someone will need to step up and seize the opportunity to be the next great Alabama safety.
There are no newcomers to the group this spring, as neither Jordan Battle nor Demarco Hellams enrolled early, which combined with the departures of Deionte Thompson, Kyriq McDonald, and Keaton Anderson have created a veritable depth crisis where spring is concerned. In fact, there are all of four scholarship safeties currently on the roster.
Deionte was the unquestioned leader of this group last season and, while some believe he would have been better served with another year in Tuscaloosa, he leaves some big shoes to fill. Besides the responsibility of getting everyone lined up properly, Thompson has elite range that will be difficult to replace.
#15 Xavier McKinney - Jr.
McKinney paired with Thompson to form a formidable duo, and he should be the heir apparent to Deionte’s leadership role. The rising 6’1”, 193 lb. junior from the Atlanta area was named defensive MVP of the Orange Bowl and on the season contributed 73 tackles, 10 passes defensed, two picks including one returned for a touchdown, and one forced fumble. If the Alabama defense is to reach its full potential, McKinney will be counted on to stabilize the back end.
#2 Jared Mayden - Sr.
Mayden is the most likely candidate to start alongside McKinney. The 6’0”, 200 lb. senior from Texas patiently waited his turn before finally seeing some meaningful game action as the starting dime back last season. He contributed 18 tackles, one sack, and two pass breakups. He will look to parlay that performance into a full time role as a senior.
#3 Daniel Wright - RS So.
It was an odd 2018 for Daniel. On October 3, it was announced that he was suspended for a violation of team rules, and then he posted a post-op photo of himself on October 4 after he had a procedure done on his shoulder. Plenty of folks speculated that he would be headed out at that point, but he’s still here and seems to be doing the right things.
#25 Eddie Smith - Soph.
Eddie was recruited as a cornerback in the 2018 class. The former three-star from Slidell, LA stands 6’0’, 190 lbs. and has worked mostly at safety in addition to his special teams efforts. Smith reportedly impressed the coaching staff last season and will have a great opportunity to show his stuff as a starter for the White team defense at A-Day.
Needless to say, having only four bodies here is a major problem. Shyheim Carter has worked at safety before and will likely get some reps there in the spring. The Tide should be in good shape in the base and nickel, but the competition for the sixth spot will be wide open, and both Hellams and Battle are going to have a golden opportunity to get on the field quickly in the fall.