Nick Saban has always been known as a defensive back guru, and the position of cornerback has always been his personal favorite to coach. Guys like Kareem Jackson, Dre Kirkpatrick, Dee Milliner, Marlon Humphrey, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Trevon Diggs, and Pat Surtain have all become high NFL draft picks and starters, and have notched a few Pro Bowls between them.
It’s one of the most important positions on the defense, and a single corner that isn’t up to the standard can absolutely cripple the entire defensive scheme.
For the purposes of this article, we’re only talking about the pure outside cornerbacks, and the hybrid slot corners will be mixed in with the safeties.
Pat Surtain II- The former 5-star immediately won a starting job as a freshman, and went on to become a Unanimous All-American, SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and a top-10 NFL draft pick. His blend of size, athleticism, instincts, and confident, yet humble attitude and work ethic is something only seen once in a generation, and is impossible to truly replace.
The New Leader
#28- Josh Jobe (Sr) 6’1” 194
Jobe joined Alabama with Surtain back in 2018, but was only a special teams contributor all year as a freshman... Until his name was called on the biggest stage. With Saivion Smith getting roasted by Clemson superstar Justyn Ross and Trevon Diggs out with a broken leg, the depth chart fell to Jobe to pick up the slack.
He performed admirably despite the blowout loss.
In 2019, he began the season as a starter, but a flurry of penalties saw Nick Saban pull him from the lineup to work on his in-play mentality, and Jobe worked his way back to become a full time starter in 2020.
An aggressive, handsy player, he deflected 11 passes while going mostly unrecognized by the media (though PFF did name him an honorable mention All-American) despite a generally impressive first season as a starter. He’s since been named to a few watch lists and preseason teams, and is the most senior member of the Alabama secondary. This is the year for him to take the step from a new starter to a veteran star.
The Returning Depth
#5-Jalyn Armour-Davis (RJr) 6’1” 192
A speedy recruit out of Mobile, Armour-Davis was actually getting some camp hype before his true freshman year when a torn ACL knocked him out for his first season. He’s spent the last two years as a backup, but has played in 18 total games either on special teams or as a backup. Most telling, he got some playing time as the 6th DB in the National Championship game earlier this year when the Tide went to Dime packages after Jordan Battle was ejected for targeting.
He’s since gotten the bulk of the first team reps opposite Jobe in the spring and fall, and it seems the starting spot is his to lose.
#26- Marcus Banks (Jr) 6’0” 186
Once a skinny sub 170-pounder out of Texas, Banks spent his first two years at Alabama adding some bulk and doing his best to make an impression on special teams. He got some significant run with the second team even during his first A-Day game two years ago, and has been a primary backup the last couple of seasons.
#23-Jahquez Robinson (So) 6’2” 197
Robinson was a little lower rated as a recruit than most of the other guys, but came to Alabama as a press coverage specialist with great size and length. He actually bounced to the safety group and the STAR position a little bit in his first season, but I think projects best as an outside corner long term. He didn’t play any as a freshman, and will be looking to carve out a back-up role this year.
#1-Kool Aid McKinstry (Fr) 6’1” 190
The five star freshman from Birmingham with a huge personality has been one of the Tide’s most talked-about recruits over the years. He’s a dynamic playmaker with tremendous speed and all-around talent. He jumped right in and had an outstanding A-Day last spring, and by all accounts has continued to be impressive in fall camp. Make no mistake, Kool-Aid has a real chance to unseat Armour-Davis for the starting spot, and will likely be a fan favorite for a few years.
#6- Khyree Jackson (Jr) 6’3”197
Jackson is the latest JUCO transfer at defensive back for the Tide, and has been the subject of a few rumors of having a great fall camp performance since arriving. He’s a big, lengthy corner with great ball skills and hits like a linebacker out on the sidelines. With McKinstry and Armour-Davis having time in the program ahead of him, he’s got a bit to catch up, but any JUCO transfer is always going to be doing their best to be an immediate starter
#12- Terrion Arnold (Fr) 6’0” 188
Another five-star recruit, Arnold was a late signee that didn’t join until summer. He’s a tremendous basketball player (offered a scholarship by Nate Oats) and wide receiver on top of being a 5-star safety in high school. Somewhat surprisingly, he’s been practicing with the corners so far this fall.
His later arrival and position switch likely puts him a bit behind the others, but Arnold is a major playmaker with a lot of potential.
Right Cornerback - Josh Jobe, Marcus Banks, Khyree Jackson
Left Cornerback - Jalyn Armour-Davis, Kool-Aid McKinstry, Jahquez Robinson
I think Armour-Davis gets the nod as the starter in the season opener due to his seniority. However, I fully expect McKinstry to get a few drives in game 1 so that the coaching staff can evaluate just how he handles it. Don’t be surprised if he winds up the main guy halfway through the season.