Saban Must Rebuild Cornerback Spots

When Alabama had its Pro Day Wednesday, three noticeable performers were 2011 Crimson Tide cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick, DeQuan Menzie, and Phelon Jones. And all have a chance to be taken in the NFL draft in April. If Bama is losing three cornerbacks, it's reasonable to say that the position—which calls for two men--is in need of rebuilding.

Although the losses are significant for Alabama at cornerback, there are solutions to the problem for Coach Nick Saban. Saban, who works with cornerbacks during practice, has a reputation for being not only the nation's best head coach, but the nation's best defensive mind, and the nation's best at producing defensive backs.

That makes for a pretty good start in this task of rebuilding at the cornerback position.

Spring football practice is scheduled to begin Friday, the day before the start of spring break. The second practice will be the day after spring break, Monday, March 19. Alabama will have 15 days of practice, including three scrimmage days, in March and April. The third and final scrimmage will be the public A-Day Game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The A-Day Game will begin at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday, April 14, and will be televised by CSS.

Dre Kirkpatrick, who has entered the NFL draft pool following his junior season, and DeQuan Menzie, a former junior college star who was a nickel back as a junior and cornerback last season, were the starters for the 2011 national championship Crimson Tide.

The most experienced returning cornerback is junior Demarcus Milliner (6-1, 196), who started six games last season and was a regular in the rotation. (He started six games in part because Bama more often than not plays with at least five defensive backs, and in those cases he played cornerback with Menzie sliding inside to the Tide's "star" position.) Milliner led Bama last year with three interceptions, which he returned for 79 yards. The last memory most Tide fans (and others, perhaps) have of Dee Milliner is him intercepting a pass at Auburn and threading his way 35 yards for a touchdown that sealed the win in the 42-14 rout. Milliner was in on 27 tackles (14 solo) and broke up nine passes.

Behind Milliner, Bama has very little in the way of men with Tide game experience.

Junior Jonathan Fulton (6-0, 187) played in all 13 Alabama games last year, but primarily on special teams. Four of his five tackles in 2011 came on kickoff coverage. He does have three career pass break-ups. Jabriel Washington, a 5-11, 165-pound redshirt freshman, has also been in the program, though not yet in a Bama game.

Last fall, Bama moved a freshman wide receiver candidate to cornerback. Although Bradley Sylve (5-11, 170) did not see game action in 2011, he got introduced to the cornerback role in practice.

Saban has said that when he brings a junior college player into the program he expects that player to be an immediate contributor. Alabama recruiting brought in two junior college cornerbacks, regarded by many as the two best in the nation. And both were early enrollees who have been participating in the Fourth Quarter program and will be involved in spring practice.

They are Travell Dixon (6-2, 200), who was first team junior college All-America, and Deion Belue (6-0, 170), who Alabama first signed in 2010 out of high school. Expect them to compete for starting jobs and significant playing time in 2012.

This is one in a series looking as Alabama football positions prior to the start of spring football practice.

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