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A Salute to the 2019 Alabama Seniors: Shyheim Carter

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The undersized defensive back was an unheralded contributor and starter for four years for Alabama— Without ever once being a liability

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Alabama Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

In the recruiting class of 2016, Shyheim Carter was an early commit to Alabama, but wound up decommitting for over half a year before rejoining the Tide’s class at the very last minute, joining a trio of talented defensive back recruits in Jared Mayden, Nigel Knott, and Aaron Robinson.

Another recruit stolen from Louisiana, Carter was the 71st overall recruit and 9th overall cornerback in his class. These were my comments on him as a new signee 4 years ago:

Carter is playmaker. He has a nose for the ball, and even more of a nose for taking said ball into the end zone. His pure athleticism makes man coverage a breeze, as he is both faster and quicker than anyone on the field. To quote Scout.com: “when you see Carter play, you see a blur...”

He has great hands and body control in the air, and is surprisingly good at winning jump balls, despite his smaller size. He’s also a surprisingly powerful tackler.

That said, he’s mostly played on offense to this point. He’ll likely have to deal with a huge learning curve in order to acclimate himself to playing defense for Nick Saban, and has little-to-no experience in zone coverage. He’s also a bit on the small side, and will be one of the smallest scholarship players on Alabama’s defense this year.

Proving me wrong, though, Carter immediately saw playing time as a true freshman in the 2016 season on both special teams and as a back-up when Alabama started to blow out USC in the opener. He had 7 total tackles on the season, but his best moment was in the 2016 Championship Game against Clemson, where he wound up seeing significant playing time as a slot corner late in the game as their high-powered offense forced the Tide to play more and more defensive backs.

His sophomore year was more of the same. There wasn’t an increase in his role, but he continued to be a constant contributor of special teams and as a back-up, and he notched 7 tackles and a pass break-up that year.

Suddenly, he was a veteran in the secondary, and became a full-time starter in 2018. He started the season with a bang, returning his first interception of his career for a touchdown in his very first start against Louisville. A few weeks later, he returned another interception for a touchdown against Arkansas. He totaled 44 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 12 pass deflections, 2 interceptions, and a forced fumble in his breakout season as a starter.

As a senior, Carter was the same steady presence that he was as a junior. He struggled with tackling early in the season, and saw himself come in as the 6th defensive back instead of the 5th guy early on. Soon, though, Nick Saban stabilized the lineup in the secondary and Carter was the main player at STAR for the rest of the season.

He wound up with 101 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, 21 pass deflections, and two forced fumbles in his 4-year career at Alabama.

Carter never got much hype from announcers, draft analysts, etc. despite being a two year starter for the best program in the nation with arguably the best track record for putting defense backs into the NFL. He was so annoyingly consistent at being rarely targeted that he was almost never mentioned on any TV broadcasts.

Through it all, though, he’s been one of the most consistent players for Alabama over the last two seasons, and a stabilizing presence in a secondary that’s been mostly in flux since 2017.

Roll Tide, Shyheim, Roll Tide.