Milliner Helping New Cornerbacks

It's the nature of college football that a young player one day is the old man the next, or so it seems. Dee Milliner is only an upcoming junior, but he is by far the most senior of Alabama's cornerbacks.

Demarcus Milliner was one of Alabama's top signees out of Millbrook in 2010. As the 2012 season approaches he said, "I'm taking more of a leadership role back there. I've got to tell everybody what to do. I'm trying to help the young guys out since I've been there and done it. I'm just trying to help them get better."

Last year Milliner was in on 27 tackles. He also had three interceptions, returning them for 72 yards. Most memorable was his interception and 35-yard runback for a touchdown that iced Bama's 42-14 romp over Auburn in Auburn. He also broke up nine passes last season.

Later this week Dee Milliner and the other cornerbacks and all Crimson Tide players will have the opportunity to show what they have learned and if they are getting better. Alabama will have the first of its three scrimmage dates at Bryant-Denny Stadium. This one is closed to the public, as will be the second on Friday, April 6. Only the A-Day Game on April 14, the 15th and final practice of the spring, will be on public display.

Alabama has had six practices to date. Alabama Coach Nick Saban said that Wednesday and Friday work this week would involve getting the players ready for the scrimmage. That means having the players prepared to carry out their assignments without the benefit of coaches on the field.

Milliner said that two junior college players are among those having to learn the system quickly. They are Deion Belue and Travell Dixon. Jonathan Fulton, who came to Bama in the same class with Milliner, is also in the mix. The cornerbacks work under Saban every day, meaning the learning curve can be a steep one.

"They're all looking great," Milliner said. "They are coming out to practice and learning what they are supposed to do. All of them are competing good."

He said the toughest part of the job is mental. "There's a lot to learn," he said. "You don't want to be out there lost. So you come in and compete and try to learn what you're supposed to do."

Milliner has an idea what the first scrimmage will be like for young players. "My first scrimmage was rough," he said. "I was put out there and really didn't know everything. But as it went on, I caught on. But it was rough at the beginning."

Milliner remembers the men who helped him learn. "Most helpful to me was Robert Lester and Dre Kirkpatrick," he said. "They had great leaders in Javy (Javier Arenas) and Mark Barron and Justin Woodall. Then they taught me."

Milliner's freshman season was after the 2009 national championship year and was also something of a rebuilding season for the secondary, just as it is following the 2011 national title. But, Milliner said, while a number of starting defensive backs were gone, there were a lot of back-ups to pick things up. This year Milliner is the only returning cornerback with meaningful playing time.

Milliner is playing left cornerback. Against right-handed quarterbacks, that's frequently the hot side of the secondary. Milliner also sees action at nickel, which usually means the opportunity to cover slotbacks.

He likes that.

"You get a lot of quick passes," he said. "Then you get to fit up on the run. I love to tackle."

There's even the opportunity to blitz from nickel. "You get to see a lot of action," Milliner said.

He's also getting a lot of action against the Alabama offense. He said "young guys, Amari Cooper is a tough guy. Chris Black, DeAndrew White, Christion Jones. Really all of them have something they do great."

He said Kenny Bell and DeAndrew White are the speed merchants. "Both those guys can flat out run," Milliner said. "When they get going, it's hard to get with them. You have to give them a little extra cusion."

Also in that practice pass coverage equation is quarterback A.J. McCarron. "You can see a big difference in him," Milliner said. "He's poised. He's calm. He's a great leader. He knows everything back there. And he tries to help everyone out."

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