Surprise At Cornerback

Last year Alabama was vulnerable to the pass, allowing a 58 per cent completion rate on 432 passes. Opposing receivers caught 250 of those passes and Bama defenders intercepted only 12. Tide cornerbacks accounted for five of those interceptions.

Charlie Peprah turning in a team-leading four (returned for 93 yards and one touchdown). Anthony Madison, the other starting cornerback, had one interception which he returned for 29 yards.

And now Peprah has been moved to strong safety. However, that news is because of very good news. A highlight of Alabama spring football practice was unquestionably the performance of sophomore Ramzee Robinson.

If Robinson, who moved into Peprah's left cornerback spot, and Madison, a senior and the returning starter at right cornerback, are the 2004 starters, Alabama will have two of the smallest at that position, both 5-9, 180.

(Although listed as a senior, Madison–like Anthony Bryant this year–has a chance to earn back another year of eligibility if he is graduated prior to the start of the 2005 season. Recent reports have him on schedule to earn his degree in December.)

Last year Robinson was used primarily as a nickel back and early in the season was not effective. However, he showed improvement during the season, then blossomed in the spring. (A cynical view is that his success came working against Alabama?s offense, including almost wholly-untested wide receivers and, frequently, a third team quarterback.)

There was little scholarshipped depth at cornerback in the spring. Eric Gray, who was given high marks for his practice work last fall as a true freshman being redshirted, worked behind Madison, while senior Thurman Ward, who has flip-flopped from the secondary to the wide receiver corps in his career and seen most of his playing time on special teams, was behind Robinson. Gray is 5-11, 190, while Ward is 6-1, 186.

Almost everyone who follows Crimson Tide football expects help from the incoming freshman class at cornerback. Simeon Castille, the 6-1, 185-pound prep All-America, is expected to follow in the footsteps of his father, Jeremiah, and his brother, Tim, as an Alabama star. And though not as heralded, 5-10, 180-pound Travis Robinson will get an early look at cornerback.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part of the continuing summer series of examining each Crimson Tide football position for 2004.

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