Could Be Strong Battle At Safety

Mark Barron was a three-year starter at strong safety with 39 career starts. He was a unanimous All-America and a finalist for the Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back. And he was the great communicator in Alabama's defensive backfield. The job of replacing him begins this spring.

Alabama returns safety Robert Lester, who has been outstanding in his previous two years starting in the secondary. Lester led the Southeastern Conference and was one of the national leaders in interceptions as a sophomore as teams went away from Mark Barron. Last year Lester continued his solid play with 39 tackles, two pass interceptions (which he returned for 30 yards), and three passes broken up. He also caused a fumble and blocked a field goal attempt. So Lester is solid at one safety spot.

Spring training 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.

In practice, Alabama works its safeties as left and right rather than strongside and weakside so that the player will be able to handle the assignment even if he ends up opposite his normal position. This spring Lester (6-2, 210, senior) and the other safety candidates will be left and right.

Expect an intriguing battle between two men who saw playing time last year as true freshmen and who were particularly outstanding in their opportunities on special teams. Vinnie Sunseri (6-0, 217) and HaSean Clinton-Dix (6-1, 203, and better known as "Ha-Ha") will be competing for playing time, and perhaps for a starting position. Last year Sunseri, who had been a high school linebacker, was in on 31 tackles, broke up a pass, had a quarterback pressure, and caused and recovered a fumble. Clinton-Dix was in on 11 tackles and broke up two passes.

Two juniors are also in the mix. Nick Perry (6-1, 205) played in nine games last year and was in on two tackles. Jarrick Williams (6-1, 210) played in seven games and had five tackles.

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

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