Like the wide receiver group that lost Jameson Williams and John Metchie in the final few games of the season, the cornerbacks also lost both starters leading up to the national championship game. With that, Alabama fans got an extended look at the guys slated to be next in line this spring— and they’ll be coming in with a chip on their shoulders from the stinging loss.
For the purposes of these articles, the Star position will be lumped in with the safeties rather than the cornerbacks, as Pete Golding’s defense treats them more that way. Don’t forget that many of the players may switch between the safeties and corners before 2022 kicks off.
Josh Jobe was a two-year starter and 4-year contributor for Alabama, who, similar to the guys we’ll talk about later, was forced into a National Championship game way back in 2018 as a true freshman when the starter went down with an injury. Jobe was an aggressive corner who had an excellent season in 2020 across from Pat Surtain, but his play trailed off as a senior when he switched to the other side of the field and dealt with a nagging turf toe injury.
4th year man Jalyn Armour-Davis was a bit of a surprise when he won the starting job going into the 2021 season, and he was nothing if not perfectly invisibly the entire season — one of the biggest compliments a cornerback can get. A hip injury forced him out of the playoffs though, so he’s entering the NFL draft with only a partial season of film in front of him.
#1 Kool-Aid McKinstry
Kool-Aid came to Alabama as a highly touted 5-star player, and quickly found himself in that coveted role as a bit of a pet project for Saban. He saw the field early and often, got tried out on different roles on special teams, and through it all, got himself yelled at quite often by the head man, all while Saban also spoke positively about him in the media.
His biggest moment of the season was when he was elevated to full-time starter against Auburn and played spectacularly, including a phenomenal break-up in the endzone in overtime to give John Metchie a chance to win the game. On the bad side, though, he got roasted down the sideline a couple of times by George Pickens in the SEC and National championship games, and also was targeted mercilessly on screen passes by the Bulldogs.
For a true freshman unexpectedly having to play in 4 straight games on the biggest stage, though, he showed a lot of flashes and promise, and should be option #1 in 2022.
#6 Khyree Jackson
The gangly 6’3” corner was a JUCO transfer who was one of the best players in the country in 2019 before missing all of 2020 with COVID derailments. Though highly touted, he was also a bit of a risky prospect. Many thought he may outright win the starting job, but the emergence of Jalyn Armour-Davis kept him as a reserve the entire season, though he was routinely a solid special teams contributor.
He wound up with his first real playing time at defensive back of the season against Cincinnati when JAD was unable to go, and played quite well. Unfortunately, he’ll mostly be remembered for losing that 50-50 deep shot to the endzone with 3 minutes left that gave up the lead to Georgia in the National Championship.
Jackson is likely to get the first shot at starting opposite Kool-Aid, though both players are going to be pressured plenty by the next guy on the list.
#7 Eli Ricks
A former 5 star recruit, Ricks immediately won a starting job for LSU in 2020 and went on to easily become a Freshman All-American and a 3rd team All-American that year with a flurry of interceptions and pass breakups on a team that was falling apart.
In his follow-up campaign, a shoulder surgery ended his season in October before it ever really got started, and once LSU finished totally imploding, Ricks entered the Portal and quickly landed in Tuscaloosa.
He’s a playmaking ballhawk with the kind of ball skills that’s rarely even seen in NFL defensive backs. The questions surrounding Ricks will be around him adjusting to a new scheme, a new program, and getting his mindset away from whatever that festering heap that was the carcass of LSU did to him.
I don’t expect he’ll be the starter this spring as he’s only just joined the team, but it likely won’t be long.
#12 Terrion Arnold
A fringe 5-star freshman last year, Arnold was a two-sport star who also practiced with Alabama’s basketball team as well as being both a corner and a safety in the football realm. Though he came to campus late as a fall enrollee, he still quickly became someone that was regularly mentioned by the media as someone that was making an impression. He wound up redshirting and not seeing any action, but is likely to be a top backup going into this season.
#23 Jahquez Robinson
A bit of a forgotten man among Alabama fans, Robinson is a well-built 6’2” junior who has played corner, star, and safety as a reserve for a couple of seasons now. He’s been buried on the depth chart so far, but has continued to stick around and add muscle to his frame and experience to his game.
#22 Tre’Quon Fegans
Another big 6’2” guy, Fegans comes to the Tide out of the powerhouse Thompson High School with a laundry list of state championships under his belt. He’s a press-man sideline specialist who will fit right in to Saban’s scheme for the outside cornerbacks, and we’ll likely get a good glimpse of the freshman in the spring game.