Bama Was Hard Hit At Cornerback

Alabama lost three starters at cornerback. What? Didn't Bama list just two cornerbacks in its 3-4 defense? The truth is that for whatever reason or reasons, the Crimson Tide was in a nickel package with an extra defensive back much more often than it was in the base 3-4 defense with four defensive backs.

Alabama's losses at cornerback weren't just in number, either. Three cornerbacks from the 2009 national championship team were NFL draftees, including first round selection Kareem Jackson. The pros also selected Javier Arenas, whose worth as both a cornerback and kick return specialist made him particularly valuable, and Marquis Johnson, once considered a weakness in the Bama secondary, but developed into a strong defender by Coach Nick Saban.

There is no getting around that Alabama suffered severe losses to the cornerback corps going into the 2010 season. Fortunately, the Crimson Tide expected those losses and has been recruiting future NFL players, who will move into those spots this year. True, the newcomers don't have the experience of Jackson, Arenas and Johnson, but the leaders for playing time in the upcoming season have talent galore.

Saban doesn't allow much media observation of his practices, but on those few occasions where more than a few minutes has been gleaned, one thing is obvious: Saban likes the potential of Dre Kirkpatrick. Saban, who works with cornerbacks at practice, is constantly giving instruction to Kirkpatrick, an indication that he has high hopes for Kirkpatrick.

If one had to guess the identity of the next lock-down cornerback in crimson and white, it would be the 6-3, 190-pound sophomore Kirkpatrick. Along with his size, Kirkpatrick has blazing speed. He played primarily on special teams as a freshman, then won the Bobby Johns Award as the most improved cornerback in the spring. He had the only interception in the A-Day Game.

If Kirkpatrick is not the next star corner, the guess probably would be B.J. Scott. Scott played in 2008 as a slot receiver, and then sat out last year while learning the nuances of defense – his best position when being recruited out of Vigor High School. Scott, who was his team's prep quarterback, is a 5-11, 193-pounder with outstanding speed.

Candidates for back-up duty and the fifth spot in the nickel package include excellent possibilities.

Phelon Jones, a 5-11, 199-pound junior, transferred to Alabama from LSU, where he had started a handful of games in his two seasons with the Bengal Tigers. Jones, who also saw action as a nickel back at LSU, sat out last year.

DeMarcus Milliner, 6-1, 182, and John Fulton, 6-0, 179, were the top cornerback prospects in the South (perhaps in the nation) last year. The next bit of good news is that both signed with Alabama. Even more good news is that both were enrolled in The University fo the spring semester, going through the off-season program and spring practice.

Milliner was considered Bama's number one prospect in the nation's sixth best signing class in February. He is a hard-hitter who also has great coverage skills. He was ranked as the nation's number one cornerback prospect by in 2010.

A national sportswriter noted that Fulton wasn't the top prospect in Alabama's class because the Tide got Milliner, but that Fulton would "be the crown jewel in just about everyone else's recruiting class."

Lack of experience appears to be offset by outstanding talent and Saban coaching as Alabama re-tools at cornerback for 2010.

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