The special thing about college football is that it’s a constant chess match. From coaches to players, everyone wants to game plan correctly for the opponent. Like quarterbacks love to manipulate defensive backs with audibles, accurate passes and eye movements, defense backs enjoy controlling quarterbacks in the aspect of reading and dissecting plays, breaking on the football and coming up with either a deflection or an interception.
For the Alabama Crimson Tide, the role of leader on defense has been pinned to linebacker CJ Mosley. Mosely displays amazing leadership and great instincts. He has the ability to play from sideline to sideline and leads the team in tackles this season (71). With this being said, he isn’t the only leader in Alabama’s defense.
Since his arrival to the Capstone in 2011, Ha’Sean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix has been nothing short of sensational. It’s not easy being a defensive back in college football and especially in the Southeastern Conference. Coaches expect defensive backs to cover well and take away an opponents’ best receiver, along with dropping down to make big time tackles in the run game.
Hailing from Orlando, Fla., Clinton-Dix attended and played football for Dr. Phillips High School. As a junior, he became the best thing in Florida outside of Disney World and Universal Orlando’s Theme Park. In his junior season, Clinton-Dix showed the team that he could be a jack of all trades. On defense, he recorded 93 tackles (13 tackles for loss), six sacks, nine pass deflections, three interceptions and three forced fumbles.
Offensively, Clinton-Dix was primarily used as a return specialist. He averaged 20.3 yards per punt return and 74.5 yards on two kick returns with one touchdown.
While high school coaches were impressed with him as a junior, college scouts were casting their nets in hope to land Clinton-Dix into their program during his senior season. As a senior, Clinton-Dix put on a show on both sides of the ball. Defensively, he had 112 tackles (10 tackles for loss), six sacks, two interceptions, four forced fumbles and eight pass deflections. On offense, Clinton-Dix was nothing to sneeze at. He totaled 23 carries for 244 yards (10.6 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. As a receiver, he had five receptions for 156 yards (31.2 yards per catch.) In the return game, Clinton-Dix amassed 19 returns for 480 yards.
In coming to Alabama, Clinton-Dix was regarded as one of the nation’s top safeties, the most heralded recruit and a five-star prospect. Rivals.com and Scout.com ranked him as the No.1 safety in the nation. He was tagged as the No.2 safety by ESPNU. Rivals 100 and Scout 100 ranked him No.7 in the nation, while he was ranked 19th in the ESPNU 150. SuperPrep Magazine listed him as the No.6 player in the nation and the No.1 player in the state of Florida.
In 2011, Clinton-Dix chose Alabama over Florida, Florida State, Southern California, Ohio State and Notre Dame. As a freshman, he exuded confidence and poise beyond his years. Clinton-Dix was one of nine newcomers and seven true freshmen that got the opportunity to play. He saw time playing backup safety behind standout, Mark Barron.
Clinton-Dix didn’t disappoint in his first season. He totaled 11 tackles, a pass deflection and was a game changer on special teams. Though he won a BCS title with the Tide in 2012 (2011 season), Clinton-Dix wanted to prove that he would be “the man” of the secondary after Barron went to NFL. He got the chance to really showcase his talent to the nation as a sophomore.
In 2012, Clinton-Dix played in all 14 games (started in 10 games). He led the team and was tied for first in the SEC with five interceptions. He totaled 37 tackles, four pass deflections and a forced fumble. The games in which he had the most impact were against Arkansas (two tackles, one interception and one forced fumble), Tennessee (career-high: 5 tackles), Texas A&M (four tackles), Georgia (three tackles, one pass deflection and one interception) and Notre Dame (seven tackles and one interception).
For his efforts on the defensive side of the ball, Clinton-Dix helped the Tide capture its 23rd SEC title and its 15th national title in 2012. This season, he is picking up where he left off. Thus far, he is third on the team in tackles with 36. He has one interception and three pass deflections. Despite missing two games this season (off-the-field issues), Clinton-Dix continues to roll. In five of seven games this season, he’s totaled more than five tackles. Against Ole Miss, he led the team with eight tackles and the Tide shutout the Rebels 25-0.
In his first game back from suspension (Arkansas), Clinton-Dix had five tackles and an interception. His performance secured the dominating, shutout victory for Alabama as they handily defeated the Razorbacks 52-0. Even with the loss of Vinnie Sunseri in that game, the return of Clinton-Dix was special for the Tide. At this moment, Alabama is eyeing a 16th national title. This would give them the three-peat and its fourth title in a five-year span. Clinton-Dix’s just wants to be sure that he will do all he can to help them achieve that.
According to ESPN NFL analysts Todd McShay and Mel Kiper, Jr., Clinton-Dix can very well be a first round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. The question for him is can he continue to succeed under Nick Saban and the Tide?