It’s no secret on what to expect when a new man goes in to play defense, particularly in the secondary. The opposing quarterback is going to go after him.
“Oh, man,” said Alabama cornerback Anthony Averett. “A cornerback is going to get beat sometimes, and has to have a short term memory. I try to forget that and look ahead, but everyone seems to remember that play.”
“Under the lights in our first game, the first drive, maybe even the first play,” Averett said. “I’ve heard about that.”
That Play. Alabama was opening the season against Southern Cal in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Alabama was in nickel defense with four experienced returning players in the five-man secondary. The new guy was Averett, a 6-0, 180-pound junior who had moved into the right cornerback spot vacated by three-year starter Cyrus Jones.
“I was in position,” said Averett. But it was a perfect pass and a big gain for the Trojans, leading to a field goal and a 3-0 USC lead. The Crimson Tide recovered nicely, finishing with a 52-6 win over Southern Cal.
Averett can smile about it now, as he did during Peach Bowl Media Day in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Thursday. On Saturday, Averett and his Crimson Tide teammates, ranked No. 1 in the nation with a 13-0 record, will take on No. 4 Washington (12-1) in the semifinal game of the College Football Playoff in the Georgia Dome.
“I had big shoes to fill in following Cyrus,” Averett said. “He taught me a lot last year just by me watching him. It’s working out right now.
“It’s been a pleasant year for me.”
Alabama Assistant Coach Derrick Ansley said, “I think Anthony has done a very good job. He’s playing at a high level now. He’s always had the skill set to be a high level corner in the SEC. He can really run, he can play the ball in the deep part of the field, he’s comfortable playing with his back to the ball in man-to-man, and he’s done a really good job in coming up on run support. That’s what we thought he needed work on the most coming into the season. He’s embraced that challenge and we really haven’t missed a beat at that position.”
And it has been a solid season for Averett. He has been in on 35 tackles, 31 of them primary tackles, including two tackles for loss. He has also caused a fumble and leads Bama with eight passes broken up.
He has been particularly impressive as a sure tackler.
“We emphasize tackling with the defensive backs,” Averett said. “We work on tackling pretty much every day. When you emphasize it in practice, it works out for us in the game.
“I try to be consistent. We want to get off the field on third down, so I try to do my job.”
Ansley said cornerbacks as tacklers “is a critical factor. When we’re looking at a DB, there are three critical factors we look at for a prospect and that translates when they are playing. You have to be able to play man-to-man to survive, you have to be able to tackle in the open field, and you have to be able to play the long ball, the ball in the deep part of the field.
“So we stress those three components, we drill those three components, and we make everyvbody tackle, because if you can’t tackle you are a liability.
“They take that challenge and show toughness and do a good job.”
Averett said the game has “slowed down” for him as the season has gone along. “I started seeing more, recognizing plays better, being more confident and more comfortable,” he said.
Averett has great respect for Washington. “They are here for a reason,” he said.
Averett has heard about Washington Coach Chris Petereson’s penchant for using trick plays when his team is the underdog.
“If we’re dominating on the line of scrimmage, we expect the possibility of trick plays to try to get us moving the wrong way,” Averett said. “So we have to have eye discipline and be aware of our keys.”
96 Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE But, Averett said, Washington didn’t get to the College Football Playoff on the strength of trick plays. He said, “They have guys on the outside, good receivers, and a quarterback who is very accurate and can throw the ball down the field. They have a good running game, good balance.”