Nick Saban has often been touted as a “cornerback whisperer,” and it’s widely known that teaching the corners has been the one position group that he always winds up spending more time with than any other position. Players like Kareem Jackson, Dre Kirkpatrick, Dee Milliner, Marlon Humphrey, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Trevon Diggs, and Pat Surtain have all graduated from the Saban secondary school into top NFL picks, and now the Tide has their pick from a quartet of highly talented players to be next in line.
For the purposes of this preview, the nickel corners, or Star, was included in my piece on the safeties.
- Josh Jobe - A multi-year starter for the Tide, Jobe was a corner with a hard-hitting, aggressive mentality that didn’t match his limited stature. He was a good, if inconsistent player for the Tide the last few years, but unfortunately tried to gut out some games at the end of 2021 with a turf toe injury and left Tide fans with memories of him getting burned in his final games with the Tide. He surprisingly went undrafted, but has been making waves in training camp by all reports.
- Jalyn Armour-Davis - Davis was a long-time backup who seemed to come out of nowhere to win the starting job in 2021. He was quietly phenomenal for the Tide up until a hip injury forced him to the sidelines for the most important games of the year.
- Marcus Banks - One of the top backups in early 2021, Banks decided to leave the team in early December. It probably wasn’t his best move, since Armour-Davis and Jobe both got hurt, and he would have been starting for the Tide in the playoffs. But... Oh well.
- Kool-Aid McKinstry - A highly coveted 5-star freshman in 2021, McKinstry found his way onto the field in reserve duty all season long and then became the Tide’s starter the final 4 games of the year. He had some amazing highs, such as breaking up the 2-point conversion in the 4th overtime against Auburn, but also found himself getting out-muscled deep by George Pickens against Georgia. Mckinstry has been a guy that Nick Saban has talked about a lot over the last year, and seems to be one that Saban is mentoring directly.
He hasn’t officially won the job yet, but is very likely to do so. He’s also likely to be the starting punt returner.
- Khyree Jackson - A tall, hard-hitting JUCO transfer in 2021, Jackson was thought by many to be the favorite to win the job opposite of Jobe before the 2021 season. He didn’t get there, but made a name for himself on special teams before eventually getting the nod in semi-final vs Cincinnati with Armour-Davis leaving with injury. Jackson played very well in that game, but then wound up being the target on Geogia’s game-winning deep pass late in the national championship.
Eli Ricks left LSU to join the Tide at the end of the 2021 season. A freshman All-American in 2020, Ricks started off 2021 with preseason All-American hype, but was derailed by injury early in the season. Ultimately tired of the dysfunction in the bayou, Ricks transferred to Alabama in December and has been trying to integrate ever since.
Nick Saban has spoken multiple times about his difficulties at getting his body right after the injury as well as trying to learn to assimilate into Alabama’s defensive system.
Most media outlets are predicting an All-American season from Ricks as the Tide’s starter, but as of now, Saban’s comments make it seem like he’s still fighting to even win the job.
- Terrion Arnold - As a multi-position and multi-sport athlete, Arnold joined Alabama in the summer of 2021 and took some time to pick a role. He started as a safety and also practiced with the basketball team, but ultimately wound up moving to corner. He’s a guy that’s drawn good reviews behind the scenes for a year now, and recent found himself getting mentioned with McKinstry, Jackson, and Ricks as someone in the mix for one of the two starting spots.
- Jahquez Robinson - Entering his third year in the program, Robinson is a tall, lanky corner who has, to this point, been a depth piece. He’s a press-bail specialist with good height, and that in itself is a rare quality. We haven’t seem him on the field very much yet, though.
- Tre’quon Fegans - A 4-star out of Thompson High School, Fegans is another tall press-man specialist in the same build and type as Robinson. He’s most likely a redshirt candidate
- Antonio Kite - Another north Alabama product, Kite is a multi-position guy that many expected to wind up as a deep safety, but has thus far been working with the corners. He’s a little on the thin side, but is blazing fast and great in deep zones.
Predicted Depth Chart
LCB - Kool-Aid Mckinstry, Terrion Arnold, Jahquez Robinson
RCB - Eli Ricks, Khyree Jackson, Antonio Kite, Tre’quon Fegans
I think Kool-Aid is for sure one of the starters, and then it’s really a 3-way race between Ricks, Jackson, and Arnold for the other spot. I’m going to guess Ricks for the official pick, but I get the feeling that Arnold is very, very close to winning it as the dark horse camp surprise.