By the (star) numbers: defensive backs

We've reached the final section of our position-by-position star analysis. Here's a look at the accuracy of Scout.com's star ratings of Alabama's actual performance at defensive back. Again these stories are about players who have already seen time on the field.

Deion Belue – three-star

Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix – five-star

John Fulton – four-star

Robert Lester – three-star

Dee Milliner – five-star

Nick Perry – four-star

Bradley Sylve – four-star

Vinnie Sunseri – three-star

Jabriel Washington – four-star

Jarrick Williams – four-star

Alabama's defense lost seven starters from last year's national championship defense that led the country in all major statistical categories.

So how will this year's secondary, sans first round draft picks safety Mark Barron and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, be able to be just as good as it was in 2011?

Lest anyone neglect the talent that has become Robert Lester, a player who has surpassed his Scout.com three-star rating and become a crucial part of the Crimson Tide's secondary: Lester, a safety, is a fifth-year senior and because of his experience, is expected to be the new leader of this crew. Last season he posted 39 tackles and two interceptions for 30 yards. He played an important role in helping Alabama have the nation's best passing defense, which allowed opponents an average of just 111.5 yards per game and score only six touchdowns on the year.

Alabama also has rising junior Dee Milliner, who started 10 games as a freshman and six last year as a sophomore, and JUCO transfers Travell Dixon and Deion Belue, who impressed at A-Day when he returned an interception 97 yards for a touchdown. Junior John Fulton also received high marks from head coach Nick Saban this spring. Those four will be battling for starting cornerback jobs.

Then there's Vinnie Sunseri, a rising sophomore, who is going against Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who holds a five-star Scout.com rating and saw action as a true freshman last season, for the second safety spot next to Lester.

As a true freshman last season, Sunseri—son of Sal Sunseri, Tennessee's defensive coordinator who used to coach the Tide's outside linebackers—had 30 tackles. He could be one of the nation's best safeties over the next couple years.

The good news here is that the Tide's secondary has depth. In addition to the aforementioned players, there's redshirt freshman wide receiver-turned-defensive back Bradley Sylve and junior safeties Jarrick Williams and Nick Perry, so in other words, there's a lot of promise for living up to and exceeding star expectations in 2012.


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