Photo by Danny Parker

Know Your Foe - Alabama Defensive Backs

The wonder is that Alabama is not saying “what if?” when it comes to the Crimson Tide secondary.

What if All-America safety candidate Eddie Jackson had not been lost in the seventh game of the year with a broken leg? He was the defensive MVP of last year’s national championship game, All-Southeastern Conference, and second team All-America as a junior. Even missing half the regular season, SEC coaches voted him second team all-conference.

What if defensive backs Maurice Smith and Kendall Sheffield had not quit the team before the first game? Smith transferred to Georgia (where he had an interception return for a touchdown to help beat Auburn, so he’s forgiven) and Sheffield moved to Blinn Junior College in Texas, and is now considered the No. 1 JUCO prospect in the nation.

But Alabama has soldiered on with solid play in the defensive backfield, led by All-America safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick is just a sophomore, but was Freshman All-America last year playing nickel back (Star in the Alabama nomenclature) and then made the move to strong safety when Jackson was injured. Fitzpatrick equaled All-America Jonathan Allen’s tackle total with 56. He led the SEC with 5 interceptions which he returned for 158 yards and 2 touchdowns. He has an Alabama record four career interceptions for touchdowns, including a Tide record 100-yard return. Fitzpatrick has broken up seven passes and caused a fumble.

Fitzpatrick is joined at safety by Ronnie Harrison, who has two interceptions this year, returned for 64 yards, one for a TD. Harrison is Bama’s second-leading tackler with 70, has broken up seven passes, and has recovered two fumbles, one of which he returned 23 yards for a touchdown.

Marlon Humphrey is starting at left cornerback for the second consecutive year. He picked off a Southern Cal pass in the first game of the year and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown, one of two picks this season. He has also broken up four passes and caused a fumble. The son of former Alabama running back Bobby Humphrey, Marlon is one of Bama’s best tacklers. Humphrey was injured against Auburn and did not play in the SEC Championship Game, but is expected to be healthy for the Peach Bowl.

Anthony Averett moved into the secondary this year after having played in only seven games in his first two seasons, all of that on special teams. He took over the right cornerback spot held by Cyrus Jones the previous three years. As the newcomer, teams attempted to pick on him early in the season, but he has been up to the challenge, including leading Bama with eight pass breakups and causing a fumble.

Tony Brown was suspended for Alabama’s first four games, but has moved into the Star position since the move of Fitzpatrick to strong safety. He has turned in two interceptions, including one in the SEC Championship game.

The Alabama secondary also gives some help to Bama’s track and field team with Humphrey, Brown, and Averett all distinguished performers.

Against the gaudy statistics of Alabama run defense (allowing only 63.4 yards per game), the pass defense may look like the place to attack the Tide, but Bama has a respectable record, allowing 217-412 (52.7 per cent) with 14 interceptions and 11 touchdowns allowed. Opponents gain only 5.8 yards per pass attempt, 11.1 per completion, and only 184.5 yards per game.

Alabama Defensive Backs

Left Cornerback

Marlon Humphrey (6-1, 196, So.)

Levi Wallace (6-0, 170, Jr.)

Shyheim Carter (6-0, 190, Fr.)

Right Cornerback

Anthony Averett (6-0, 183, Jr.)

Tony Brown (6-0, 198, Jr.)

Strong Safety

Minkah Fitzpatrick (6-1, 203, So.)

Deionte Thompson (6-2, 190, R-Fr.)

Safety

Ronnie Harrison (6-3, 216, So.)

Hootie Jones (6-2, 215, Jr.)

Jared Mayden (6-0, 200, Fr.)

Star (Nickel)

Tony Brown (6-0, 198, Jr.)

Shyheim Carter (6-0, 190, Fr.)


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