Spring sneak peek: Secondary
Returning starter: SS Mark Barron (Jr.).
Starters lost: CB Javier Arenas; CB Kareem Jackson; CB Marquis Johnson; FS Justin Woodall.
Meet the candidates: Cornerback: Dre Kirkpatrick (So.); Phelon Jones (Jr.); B.J. Scott (So.); John Fulton (Fr.); DeMarcus Milliner (Fr.). Safety: Robby Green (Jr.); Robert Lester (So.); Rod Woodson (So.).
See ya in the summer: Cornerback: Dequan Menzie; Deion Belue. Safety: Jarrick Williams; Nick Perry.
Did you know? As the third corner in the nickel package, Johnson started 10 games in 2009. So, it isn't just a matter of replacing the Tide's two starting corners. Given the prominent role Johnson played in the defense over the last two seasons, Kirby Smart is in the market for at least three SEC caliber corners.
The big question: How quickly can the young corners get up to speed? With two 2008 starts at LSU to his credit, Jones carries "veteran" status at his position. In addition to Jones, three former five-star recruits (Kirkpatrick, Scott and Milliner) and one four-star (Fulton) will be in the mix. Athleticism won't be a concern. Mastering coverages, on the other hand, will be. The good news: An improving pass rush should make life easier for these guys.
Time to make a move: Dead heat between corners Scott and Jones. After a year spent redshirting at a new position, Scott could not have asked for a better opportunity than the one presently in front of him. He brings a physical approach to the position, but it remains to be seen how effective he will be in coverage. Jones is entering his fourth year in an SEC program. In a field of competitors made up mostly of first- and second-year players, that experience should come in handy. It may take more than that, however, to hold off early enrollees Fulton and Milliner.
Best of the bunch: Barron represents the most versatile defensive back in the Nick Saban era at Alabama. In addition to safety, he can also help at the "star" and "money" spots in the nickel and dime packages. Given the new faces the secondary will feature in the fall, he'll need to add "leader" to his resume in 2010.
Biggest upside: In terms of size and athletic ability, Kirkpatrick is the prototype corner. If he makes a genuine commitment to improving every aspect of his play, the Gadsden product could leave UA as an all-time great.
Don't be shocked if: Green and/or Barron see time at the "star" position. If that happens, Lester could become more involved at safety.
Lest we forget: As good as Arenas, Jackson and Johnson were in coverage, they were equally effective tacklers. Remember that when contemplating the defense's ability to slow down the run (and wide receiver screens).
*Discuss the secondary with BOL staff members and other Tide fans HERE!
*Spring sneak peek: Offensive line.
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