TUSCALOOSA | It wasn't that long ago Dee Milliner was looking to his more experienced teammates for help. This season the junior cornerback will be one of the leaders in the Alabama secondary.
Milliner has played in all 26 games his freshman and sophomore seasons, compiling a career total of 82 tackles, four interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown against Auburn in 2011, and 16 pass breakups.
The Tuscaloosa News spoke with Milliner to ask about taking leadership over a new-look secondary and how the team is coming along.
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Q: How is the team looking early on during camp?
A: We're looking great. We've got a lot of guys competing, stepping up and coming out on the right foot. We lost a lot of guys (Mark) Barron, DQ (DeQuan Menzie), Dre (Kirkpatrick). We always lose great players every year to go to the NFL. You've got to get people behind them to step up and do their jobs.
Q: How many times have you been asked about the losses on defense?
A: I've been asked that a lot, but you should expect it. When you lose guys that like, you should know you're going to be asked about that because people have not seen the young guys play. So you've got to expect that.
Q: Do you feel it's your's and Robert Lester's role now to help these young guys fit in and help them learn?
A: I definitely feel like that. Coming in I've got a lot of experience between and Robert and myself. I have to come in and show them the way and help them out just like I was helped when I came in to college.
Q: What's it like now to have the young guys looking to you for leadership?
A: I love it. I expect it out of the young guys. They expect me, because I've been here for a while, to know. I expect myself to know it. I do know it, so I like for them to come to me and get my advice and help teach them. I like teaching them. Once you get that experience it's your job to help teach. I love it.
Q: What's the potential of this secondary?
A: We can be great. We can be the greatest secondary there is in the country or we could not be. You've just got to come in and compete, practice great and just expect to be the best and you'll be the best.
Q: What's the difference between "could be" or "could not be?"
A: Just coming out and competing. We have to have communication, team work and work hard. We need to expect to be great and not worry about the outside. If we do that we'll be good.
Q: What's the biggest area of improvement you've had since you've been at Alabama?
A: Probably just within the game. It feels slower to me now because it goes so fast at practice, so it's very easy. My first year I got here I was kind of iffy about where I was supposed to be on the field and stuff like that. When we would call something I would second guess myself. I would look to Mark or Dre. Mark knew what he was doing all the time, so I just looked to him. Now when I see it I know the checks already, what we're going to go to if this happens or that happens. Now I feel like it's natural to me.
Q: Who is the toughest wide receiver you've gone up against?
A: That would probably be Christian Jones or Amari Cooper. Them guys got moves and they're quick, and they've got great hands also.
Q: We've heard a lot about Amari and that's rare for a freshman to be that talked about. What's the best part of his game?
A: The best part of his game is his releases. You can barely really touch him because he's so quick. He just gets down the field so fast. The way these kids are coming up now…they're talented. We only recruit the best.
Q: What's this team capable of this season?
A: We're capable of being the best team in the country if we want to be. It's up to us. We just have to come out and compete and get better every day. If we expect to be the best it will come out.
Reach Aaron Suttles at Aaron@TideSports.com or at 205-722-0229.