Alabama defensive backs coach Mel Tucker was not pleased with the lack of effort shown to start Thursday’s practice. Regardless of sunny conditions and 82-degree weather, Tucker sensed little to no urgency from the players in a contact/tackle drills.
He got onto junior defensive back Eddie Jackson after not executing a drill properly, and then quickly relayed his message to the entire group.
“We are out here to get better,” Tucker said. “When you get better, we all get better.”
Crimson Tide’s head coach Nick Saban witnessed a disappointing year for Alabama’s secondary in 2014. It forced 11 interceptions with none returned for touchdowns, both are lows under Saban since 2007. The goal for this season’s defense is to generate more turnovers.
Landon Collins, Nick Perry and Jarrick Williams are all gone, yet Alabama still may have a productive defensive backfield. Cyrus Jones returns as a senior leader at cornerback.
He totaled 46 tackles, 13 pass breakups and three interceptions in 14 games last season.
The corner to play opposite Jones will be interesting. Redshirt freshman Marlon Humphrey and true freshman Minkah Fitzpatrick are contending for the spot. Humphrey is seen at corner during Alabama’s first-team nickel and dime, while Fitzpatrick lines up at Star.
Fitzpatrick has become the equivalent of Dexter’s Laboratory in fall practice. Coach Saban has worked him at corner, Star and Money to develop the best possible looks for him on defense.
A simple jersey change and action on special teams won’t alienate sophomore corner Tony Brown from the secondary. He will have to fight off Fitzpatrick and Humphrey for a starting spot, but his experience last season should help with that. Brown put in 10 tackles in 2014.
Cornerbacks Bradley Sylve and Anthony Averett open up Alabama’s second-team defense in nickel. Averett, a sophomore, spent last season on the practice squad, while Sylve recorded eight tackles in 14 games. Safeties Ronnie Harrison and Jabriel Washington are in nickel too.
Eddie Jackson and Geno Matias-Smith line up at safety in both looks, while junior defensive back Maurice Smith enters the first-team dime package at Money.
A dangerous secondary makes life easier for whomever is under center for Alabama.
Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart saw greatness with this group in 2009 (24 INTs), 2010 (22 INTs) and 2012 (18 INTs). Will Tucker’s influence bring a dominant outcome?