Corner Candidates Making Progress

Nick Saban has a tough job, and not just being head football coach of the number one ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. When Bama heads to the practice field each day, Saban puts on a different hat – literally and figuratively. When he's in his straw panama, he is also coaching cornerbacks.

Alabama has had one fairly healthy and regular cornerback this year in Deion Belue. Belue, a senior who started last season, has started seven of Alabama's eight games this year. He missed the Colorado State game with an injury.

It is the other cornerback spot, where Dee Milliner was a starter last year before being a first round draft choice in last spring's NFL selections, where Nick Saban has been shuffling the deck. Five men have started and a sixth has played at the cornerback position this year.

Cornerback play will be important for Alabama this week. The Crimson Tide hosts LSU at 7 p.m. CST Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Bama is 8-0 overall and 5-0 in Southeastern Conference play and ranked first in the nation. LSU is 7-2, including a 3-2 conference record, with its losses having been by three points each on the road.

The Tigers feature an outstanding quarterback in senior Zach Mettenberger who has 19 touchdowns and only seven interceptions while completing 65.4 per cent of his passes and throwing for 2,492 yards. He has great targets in junior wide receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, who have combined to catch 106 passes for 1,891 yards and 16 scores.

Belue ranks last among cornerbacks in tackles with only six, but has an interception (which he returned 28 yards), two pass break-ups, and a cornerback pressure.

John Fulton started against Virginia Tech and Texas A&M, and hasn't started since, although he has played in every game. (Cornerbacks are often on various special teams, so playing in a game doesn't necessarily mean seeing time at cornerback.) He is the Tide's leading tackler among cornerbacks with 18, including two for loss, and has broken up one pass.

Bradley Sylve started against Colorado State, Kentucky, and Arkansas and played in every other game until missing the Tennessee game with an injury. He has made eight tackles and broken up two passes.

Freshman Eddie Jackson started against Colorado State (his first game), Ole Miss, and Georgia State, was injured the next week, and has played against Arkansas and Tennessee. A featured player in the "60 Minutes" special on Saban, Jackson has been in on nine tackles, including one for lost yardage, and has an interception, two passes broken up, a quarterback pressure, and has recovered a fumble.

Cyrus Jones, converted from wide receiver late last year, started last week and has played in every game except Kentucky and Georgia State. He has been in on 12 tackles, has two interceptions, and has broken up two passes.

True freshman Maurice Smith hasn't started, but has played in every game except Kentucky. He has been in on 10 tackles, including one for lost yardage, and has broken up two passes.

In discussing the cornerbacks working opposite and behind Belue, Saban said, "Bradley had done a really good job, and then he got injured. Cyrus has done a pretty good job since that time. The two young guys (Eddie Jackson and Maurice Smith) continue to make progress.

"It's always the consistency with young players to focus; the volume of things, especially when you change game plans from week to week in terms of the types offense you have to play against and the type of things you have to do.

"I'm not disappointed in any way anyone is progressing. Are where we like to be? We still need to improve. I like the way the guys are competing."

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