Cornerback Looks Like Strong Spot

If it really starts with defense, you'd have to say that Alabama football has a head start going into the 2011 season. A year ago it was rebuilding time with nine starters departed, six of them headed to the NFL. This year the defense is rebuilt.

One of the good places to be coaching Alabama football these days is cornerback, and it just so happens that Nick Saban -- who sometimes bills himself as the nation's highest paid graduate assistant coaching cornerbacks -- handles that responsibility for the Crimson Tide.

There were 26 total starts at cornerback for Bama last year and the men who made them all return. Dre Kirkpatrick started 12 of 13 games at left cornerback and Demarcus Milliner (better known as Dee Milliner) started 11 of 13 at right cornerback. The one game that Kirkpatrick didn't start (Mississippi State) was started by Phelon Jones. The two games Milliner didn't start (San Jose State and Duke) were started by Dequan Menzie.

Additionally, Menzie started four games and Jones one as a nickel back.

All four return. And so does John Fulton, who played in all 13 games last year.

When Saban assessed cornerback play in the spring, he said, "I felt like the coverage was pretty decent for the most part. I didn't see a lot of mental errors out there -- just a few. The real test comes when we do more things because we will end up playing more middle-of-the-field coverage to get pressure, and it will pout more pressure on the coverage people."

It was no surprise when the spring awards were announced that Menzie was winner of the Bobby Johns Award as the team's most improved defensive back. Throughout the spring, Saban and Bama players had mentioned the play of the 6-0, 195-pound senior.

"I was pleased because DeQuan Menzie had a good spring," Saban said.

Menzie had an interception and was in on six tackles, including one for lost yardage, in the A-Day Game.

Saban also cited Kirkpatrick, Milliner, and Fulton for the improvement they made in the spring.

In the A-Day Game, Milliner was in on four tackles (one for lost yardage); Kirkpatrick was in on three tackles, caused a fumble, and broke up a pass; Jones was in on two tackles, caused a fumble, and broke up a game-high four passes; and Fulton had a pass break-up.

Menzie, a junior college transfer who reported to Alabama last summer having undergone surgery to repair a torn achilles tendon, thinks he will be better in his second season at Bama. "I believe it will help me," he said of his play in 2010. "I have a year under my belt and played with a lot of injuries, but I put everything behind me and am moving forward."

Last year Menzie was in on 33 tackles, including five for losses of 18 yards, and had two sacks, four pass break-ups, and two quarerback hurries.

Milliner was in on 55 tackles, including four for losses of 12 yards. He had an interception, seven pass break-ups, one quarterback hurry, cna caused a fumble.

Kirkpatrick was in on 53 tackles, including four for losses of 17 yards. He had three interceptions he returned 30 yards. He broke up seven passes, had one quarterback hurry, caused a fumble, and recovered a fumble.

Last year Jones was in on 17 tackles, one for loss, and had one pass break-up. Fulton was in on five tackles, and had one sack and broke up two passes.

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