As we hit the summer portion of the offseason, Touchdown Alabama Magazine will be releasing a series of player spotlight pieces on starters and marquee contributors for the 2019 football season. In these articles, we will dive into the strengths and weaknesses of each player, provide expectations for 2019, give NFL Draft projections for those who are eligible, and conclude with how each one can impact the team.
The next defender is Shyheim Carter.
2018 stats: 43 total tackles, two interceptions, two touchdowns
Good tackling for his size
Big game player
When the stage is set and the lights shine brightest, you can expect Shyheim Carter to be playing his best football. In the SEC Championship game last season, Carter was an integral part in holding Georgia’s passing attack in check. If not for that, then Alabama wouldn’t have had a shot at making their second historic comeback against the Bulldogs in 2019.
Even though Carter appears small to the eye, his play trumps what you see on a roster sheet. Carter is a very solid tackler for his size as he is able to wrestle players down shortly after receiving a pass. The 6-0 corner excels in a position on Alabama’s defense which is one of the most demanding in coach Nick Saban’s scheme, the “star” corner or slot defender.
His responsibility is to line up man to man with the slot receiver of the other team who generally is the quickest or fastest player on the opposing team. But when Carter lines up in front of them, they look like just another player scrambling for a centimeter of separation.
When opposing receivers try to break free from Carter, it’s as if he is following along in their back pocket. He does an excellent job of staying on the receiver’s hip with excellent timing with his breakups, as we saw against Georgia.
Another facet of his game that’s underrated is his ability to disguise his blitz off of the edge. Dare I say he is Minkah Fitzpatrick like when coming off the edge. Both showed a great ability to trick quarterbacks into thinking they were dropping into coverage. And both players are tenacious at the point of attack, unafraid to stick their nose in the trenches and attack the football.
Has little experience defending anywhere but the slot
This past spring Carter was relegated to wearing a black shirt for the entirety of the season for he was suffering through a sports hernia. Sports hernia are described as a strain or tear of any soft tissue (muscle, tendon, ligament) in the lower abdomen or groin area. This injury has a potential impact on a wide area of the body and also potentially detrimental areas.
The cornerback provides many potential opportunities for reaggravation or re-injury if he isn’t already all healed. I’m no doctor but a corner with an injured groin does not sound too great considering all of the change in direction one must do when playing the position.
What also can’t be forgotten is how Carter played for a decent chunk of time with a club on his hand due to an injury against Ole Miss. No one is questioning Carter’s toughness but it is definitely a bit of a concern when a player piles up injuries like this in a short period of time.
One other weakness that is more of a nitpick, is how Carter has only seen real playing time at the “star” position for the tide. Because of the depth at corner, he probably won’t be asked to step outside and cover players outside the numbers for a whole game but it would be a nice resume booster for NFL scouts.
The expectation for Shyheim Carter is to continue to lock down slot receivers and to step up in big games. When two teams are competing for a championship, sometimes it comes down to just one or two big plays that can go either way. In this case, Carter is expected to continue to shine brightest when the team needs him most.
2020 NFL Draft Projection
Shyheim Carter: Third-round pick (early-mid)
Carter’s competition: C.J. Henderson (Florida), Jaylon Johnson (Utah), Kristian Fulton (LSU), A.J. Terrel (Clemson)
Even though he did a great job of shutting down receivers last season and stepping up in big moments, Shyheim Carter has still found his way to fly under the radar. Seemingly no one is talking about him as one of the best slot defenders in the country even after making a name for himself last season. As our own Stephen M. Smith pointed out on twitter the other day, Carter put together a season which stacked up against the likes of Alabama great Minkah Fitzpatrick. If he puts up another year like 2018, then teams will surely stop overlooking this guy.
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Patrick Dowd is a Reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter, via Pat_Dowd77.