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Alabama 2020 Spring Football Preview: Cornerbacks

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The Tide have a lot of retooling to do in the secondary.

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest position battles this offseason will be in the secondary. Only one (long-term) starter returns, Patrick Surtain II, at cornerback. The other outside corner and the star (or nickel) spots are both open with Trevon Diggs and Shyheim Carter graduating.

Departed

Trevon Diggs

Diggs had a role in each of his four seasons. He started out on offense as a freshman - you may have heard of his brother Stefon Diggs - before moving to defense ahead of his sophomore year. He briefly started in 2017 but went back to a reserve role. 2018 was his time, however, with Diggs earning a permanent starting job until a foot injury midway through the season sidelined him for the year. He returned for his senior season and performed well, despite a few bad moments; and he earned second All-American honors from the AFCA and The Sporting News and third team honors from the AP.

Shyheim Carter

Carter never turned into a star, but he was a reliable contributor and steady presence at the star position. He played in 50 games throughout his four years with 23 starts at star his final two years. Carter worked his way into the starting line-up by his junior season and started 12 games in 2018. He had an up-and-down 2019 but still earned a starting role in 11 of 13 games and capped his career with an interception in the Citrus Bowl.

Nigel Knott

Knott was a 4 star recruit out of Mississippi who could never quite work his way into the two-deep. You may remember his ridiculous athleticism from Brent’s Meet the New Guys series in 2016. Unfortunately, we never got to see much of him, partially due to injuries. At the beginning of the 2019 season, Nick Saban announced Knott was medically redshirting from some of those injuries. Fortunately, Knott has since said he has been medically cleared and is set to transfer for his final season. Hopefully, it works out for him and he gets to play.

Scooby Carter

A 4 star member of the Class of 2019, Carter played in three games his freshman season. He was suspended for the Mississippi State game after missing class; and, shortly thereafter, he entered the transfer portal. Thus began the Scooby Saga. Carter ended up withdrawing his name from the portal in January, and it looked like Carter would be in a different section of this preview. However, at the end of February, Carter went back into the portal; and his time at Alabama appears done.

Returning Starter(s)

Patrick Surtain

Surtain will start for the third straight year for Alabama. The former 5 star worked in his into the starting line-up as a true freshman before September was over and hasn’t looked back. In his two seasons, he has 3 interceptions, 15 pass break-ups, 4 forced fumbles, and 79 total tackles. Surtain has experience at both outside corner and star, though he has primarily played outside.

Josh Jobe

I’ll include Jobe in this section since he does have starting experience. Last season, he started Alabama’s opener against Duke and again against Michigan in the bowl game. Jobe struggled a bit against Duke and went back to the second-team, but he was the first cornerback up when Trevon Diggs sat out the Citrus Bowl. Jobe acquitted himself fairly well against the Wolverines, and he will almost definitely open spring practice as a starter.

Other returning players

Jalyn Armour-Davis

An injury during pre-game warm-ups cut Armour-Davis’s freshman season short in 2018. He returned last year to carve out a role on special teams and as a back-up on defense, ultimately playing in 8 games.

Marcus Banks

Banks was the lowest-ranked (according to the 247 Composite) of Alabama’s defensive backs in the Class of 2019, but he played more than the other two cornerbacks combined. He avoided redshirting, finding the field in 7 games in 2019.

Brandon Turnage

Alabama plucked Turnage out of Ole Miss’s backyard in Oxford. He only played in one game as a freshman, against Western Carolina.

Newcomers

Ronald Williams

Williams is someone to keep an eye on. The 6’2, 188lb defensive back was a JUCO All-American for Hutchinson Community College last year, and Saban clearly has high hopes for him.

“We have not typically recruited a whole lot of junior college guys, but the junior college guys that we have, (they) have fulfilled a need and been able to contribute and play early on here and play well for us,” Tide coach Nick Saban said. “So we’re hopeful that will be the case. He’s got really good size. He’s played Star, safety and corner, so he has versatility as a player.

Jahquez Robinson

Robinson was a 4 star corner out of Jacksonville, Florida, the #32 ranked cornerback in the 247 Composite. 247 has him listed at 6’1 ½” while the official roster generously bumped him up to 6’2; either way, he fits the mold of the tall, long corners Saban likes. Robinson was the first of the Class of 2020 to get on campus, arriving in time for bowl practices in December.

Predicted Depth Chart

Corner: Josh Jobe, Marcus Banks

Corner: Ronald Williams, Jalyn Armour-Davis

Star: Patrick Surtain, Jalyn Armour-Davis

Surtain has played as one of the outside cornerbacks, but I think he’ll slide inside to star when Alabama is in nickel. He’s practiced there, so the staff obviously has thought he can handle it.

I think Jobe will take the final step forward and establish himself as a permanent starter. I’ll also go with Williams for the other outside spot. He has starting college experience, albeit at the JUCO level; and Saban regards him highly.