The song is quite a bit different than it was just one year ago. Heading into the 2018 season, Alabama had graduated every single starting defensive back from the previous year and was trying to settle on six new starters.
This time around, things are quite a bit more settled. We’ll dig into the depth at cornerback today, and follow up in the next week or so with a piece on the safeties. With nickel and dime defenses being the primary formations, rather than sub-formations, there’s obviously some fluidity between the corners and safeties. I’ll do my best to separate them, but guys like Shyheim Carter will appear twice.
#5- Shyheim Carter
A senior that was a do-it-all athlete in high school and a key reserve in his first two seasons at Alabama, Carter became the starting Star (nickel corner) last season and was a steady veteran presence all season long. Though on the shorter side, Carter is a quick and sticky cover man with solid tackling ability, and can play any position in the secondary. Most likely, the coaches will find out what players are best at which spots, and Carter will fill in at the weakest spot.
As of right now, he’s mostly practicing as a safety, and as such won’t be listed in my depth chart prediction here. But that could change.
#7- Trevon Diggs
The one-time wide receiver made the change to cornerback in 2017, but was subsequently sent back to the bench, as he had not had enough time to learn the position. In 2018, though, he stepped up as a starter and quickly became what was most likely the best defensive back on the team. At 6’2”, he has tremendous length and size for an outside corner, and is an exceptional athlete, as evidenced by being a multi-year starter at punt returner. Unfortunately, he broke his leg midway through the season, forcing Alabama to play with back ups in the final stretch of tough games (which, well, didn’t end so well for his replacement).
By all accounts, he’s now 100% healthy and ready to resume his role as top dog in the secondary.
#2- Pat Surtain II
Another 6’2” specimen, Surtain forced his way into the starting lineup at outside cornerback 1⁄3 of the way through his freshman year last season and never looked back. His size, speed, mental ability were exceptional all season long, though he did give up a few well-contested deep balls against Oklahoma (but hey, who doesn’t give up some points here and there to Okie?)
Word is that Surtain II has moved from outside corner to Star this offseason, and has totally locked down that spot.
Up and Coming
#28- Josh Jobe
When Saivion Smith was victimized in the national championship game, Josh Jobe, a true freshman, was forced into his first meaningful action of the season in the worst of situations. He responded well, and, though he gave up some catches to Justyn Ross, he contested every single one, and ultimately showed a lot of confidence and promise despite being in such an impossible situation.
Then he showed up at A-day with noticeably more muscle bulk and speed and played like a man-possessed the whole game.
Now, he’s being talked about as the 3rd starting cornerback, opposite Diggs on the outside.
#13- Nigel Knott
Four years ago, Knott was a SPARQ phenomenon with a nearly 50” vertical jump and a sub 4.4 forty yard dash. He was a raw talent, but a generational athlete with a lot of potential. Unfortunately, he’s been riddled with minor injuries all four years, and has yet to put things together and become a major contributor. Despite displaying solid coverage every time we see him at A-Day, he’s usually more noticed for his difficulties in making a difference in the run game.
#22- Jaylen Armour-Davis
A speedy true freshman out of Mobile, Alabama in 2018, Armour-Davis was lost for the season in fall camp last year and had to take a redshirt. Though still an unknown at the college level, Armour-Davis was known as talented bump-n-run outside corner who could also play safety and even receiver.
#25- Eddie Smith
Another guy that has been at safety just as much as he has cornerback, sophomore Eddie Smith was a core special teams player as a true freshman last year. Another do-it-all athlete in high school, Smith has the size and speed to play running back, wide receiver, outside corner, inside corner, safety, and return man. He’s generally considered one of the quickest players on the team, but hasn’t quite settled on a role yet.
#26- Marcus Banks
Though undersized at only 170 pounds, the true freshman out of Houston is about as technically sound as you’ll find in a high school corner. With precise footwork and ball-skills, Banks will be a factor in the defensive backfield for the Tide as soon as he bulks up to SEC size.
#11- Scooby Carter
Carter enrolled in January and has been with the Tide since spring practice. A tremendous athlete and fringe 5-star recruit, Carter is an excellent deep cover corner and is a ballhawk in zone. His 4.36 forty speed makes him a danger to jump a route from anywhere on the field at any time.
That said, he looked a little undersized at A-Day, despite being listed at 186 pounds, and spent most of the afternoon being out-muscled and outrun by the freshman phenom receiver John Metchie.
#14- Brandon Turnage
The third true freshman on the list and one of the longest tenured commits of Alabama’s 2019 class, Turnage is another player who is just as likely to end up at safety as he is corner. At 6’1”, he’s a little bit bigger than some of the other guys, but probably has a little more work than some of the others in regards to learning some of the intricacies and techniques of playing defensive back.
Predicted Depth Chart
LCB- Josh Jobe, Nigel Knott, Jaylen Armour-Davis
RCB- Trevon Diggs, Marcus Banks, Scooby Carter
Star- Pat Surtain II, Eddie Smith, Brandon Turnage
I think Diggs and Surtain are about as set as you can be as starters. If Alabama ever goes to a base 3-4 formation, Jobe will probably sub out and Surtain will slide outside.
At the same time, Shyheim Carter is likely to play a lot of slot cornerback as well, depending on how much he plays safety and what kind of formation creativities the coaches get into.
I think Eddie Smith and Marcus Banks wind up being your first two guys to sub into the game in mop-up duty, and we’ll be talking about both of them this time next year.