He'll play where needed

The recent announcement that Charlie Peprah was taking snaps at safety was greeted warmly by most observers. Viewed as one of the Tide's top defenders, most fans were happy with the move. <br><br>But as Peprah told <i>BamaMag.com</i> following Saturday's scrimmage, a position move always involves work.

"It's not easy," Charlie Peprah said. "You're more involved with the entire defense at safety."

For the past two seasons Bama fans have become accustomed to seeing Peprah at cornerback. One of the Tide's most instinctive pass defenders, the junior finished among the team leaders in interceptions in both 2002 and 2003.

As Peprah explained, in one sense playing cornerback is simpler than safety.

"At corner you just pay attention to your man," Peprah said. "Every now and then you read the offense, but most of the time it's one-on-one with the receiver. At safety you've got to direct traffic. You've got to see the whole play and be involved in most of them. That aspect is different.

"It'll take some time to adjust."

Defensive backs coach Chris Ball and the Tide entered spring looking for another safety. Roman Harper returned at free safety, and Peprah and Anthony Madison appeared set on the corners. But someone needed to step up and replace Charles Jones.

Interestingly, it was the play of then back-up cornerback Ramzee Robinson that may have provided the solution. Before practice last Tuesday Coach Ball called Peprah into his office.

"The coaches said they were trying to get their best (22) players on the field at the same time," Peprah recalled. "I'm willing to do whatever."

Peprah's attitude is refreshing, especially when viewed in light of so many selfish athletes these days. It would have been very easy for him to say "No." After all, he had been Bama's top performer the past two seasons. And he had accomplished that work at cornerback.

Peprah has been a mainstay at cornerback for Bama the past two seasons. (UA photo)

But that wasn't how he looked at it.

"You've got to do it for the team," Peprah said. "We're trying to win games. If that's what it takes--for me to move to safety, to receiver, to quarterback or wherever--we're going to change.

"If it helps us win games, I'll do it."

Peprah worked all last week at safety, including Saturday's scrimmage.

"The move hasn't gone badly," Peprah said. "There are a couple of things I've got to clean up, like correcting my angles and tackling better. But they're all things that can be fixed. For the most part I'm happy with the speed I'm learning. There are little things to correct, but once I learn what to do I can cut loose and not hesitate."

During Saturday's workout at Bryant-Denny, Peprah actually led the defense with six tackles. He joked about the change.

"You've actually got to tackle for real from the safety position," Peprah said with a broad smile. "You can't do like you do at corner."

Though he jokes about soft-tackling cornerbacks, Peprah (#26 underneath) has actually been a solid tackler for the Tide. (Barry Fikes photo)

Peprah isn't the first Tide athlete that has been approached about changing positions for the good of the team. Earlier Mike Shula had a similar conversation with Kyle Tatum about moving from defensive tackle to offense.

"It was Coach Ball that called me in, but he said that Coach Shula and Coach Kines had talked about it," Peprah recalled. "At first I was like ‘Wow! They are serious about this.' But then I was fine. Now I'm going back to where I was when I first came in."

Back three years ago when Peprah, Harper and Madison all arrived on campus, he and Roman Harper flip-flopped back and forth in the secondary.

Peprah explained, "When I first got to Alabama me and Roman were flopping back and forth between safety and cornerback. But after several days I stayed at corner and Roman stayed at safety. That was that."

If the recent experiment holds, then Peprah and his good friend Harper will be working together in the Bama secondary.

"Hopefully it'll be me and Roman out there side-by-side," Peprah said. "He'll still have to tell me what to do every now and then. My main goal (this spring) is to learn and get everything down pat, so I can just let loose. Right now I'm still hesitant a little bit. I'm still learning and getting comfortable.

Peprah (right) and Roman Harper (left) have been good friends since they first set foot on campus.

"Once I get it all down, I can let loose and just fly around."

At the very least the move has given Peprah a new appreciation for how hard a safety's job is. He explained, "Now I see the bind (cornerbacks) put the safeties in sometimes. It makes me respect the safeties more."

So long as Robinson continues his torrid play, Peprah can remain at safety. But as the Tide coaches continue their search for their "22 best athletes" to put on the field, more changes are possible--even probable. That's especially true with three excellent freshmen DBs set to arrive next fall.

"It's not set in stone yet, but this adds depth," Peprah said. "It lets us move around. If someone isn't having a good day at safety, then I could move over or vice versa. It makes us more versatile, which is good.

"It's a win-win situation."


BamaMag Top Stories