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What has made Alabama CB Terrion Arnold look like a high draft pick?

Alabama defensive back Terrion Arnold (3) runs the ball against USF at Raymond James in Tampa, FL on Saturday, Sep 16, 2023.
Photo comes via SEC Media Portal

Alabama football fans are focused on this season, but could it have two first-round cornerbacks from its defense enter the 2024 NFL Draft?

Patrick Surtain II was the last first-round cornerback for Alabama in the 2021 draft.

RELATED: Alabama LB named Bednarik Player of the Week

National media pundits see Ga’Quincy “Kool-Aid” McKinstry as a first-rounder, but his counterpart is just as good if not better. 

Terrion Arnold, a third-year player, came to the University of Alabama in the same class (2021) with McKinstry as a five-star athlete from Tallahassee, Fla. Arnold was recruited to be a safety, but he had to play cornerback out of necessity. He endured growing pains in 2022; however, he made the All-Freshman Team for the Southeastern Conference. The 6-foot, 196-pounder has taken marquee leaps as a redshirt sophomore. He’s become more confident in his coverage abilities and helping in run support.

Arnold is third for Alabama’s defense in total tackles (25) and has 11 solo stops. He’s collected 1.5 tackles for loss, five pass breakups (team-high), and an interception. Opposing quarterbacks are choosing to test Arnold over McKinstry, and he is making them pay for mistakes. Arnold has not allowed a 100-yard wide receiver in back-to-back weeks versus South Florida and Ole Miss.

His focus, eye discipline, and experience have boosted his confidence to lock up receivers outside. Arnold is also locked into trusting the technique he’s learned from Nick Saban and Travaris Robinson. He has the potential to join McKinstry as a high-round selection for next year’s draft. On Monday, Saban discussed how Arnold has improved as a cornerback.

RELATED: Nick Saban remembers Mike Leach ahead of Alabama vs. Miss State

“He is more confident. He has less mental lapses,” Saban said about Arnold. “I think the thing that contributes to it is better knowledge of the defense, better knowledge of understanding what to do, how to do it, why it’s important to do it that way, and the confidence that comes from it. It allows you to play fast and focus on the right things, and I think he’s played better because of those things.”

Malachi Moore, a senior defensive back, said he and Arnold challenge each other in practice.

“If I see Terrion not doing what he’s supposed to do, not saying he’s not doing what he’s supposed to do, but if he’s messing up on a call … I’m going to check him on that,” Moore said. “He’ll check me if he sees me slacking as well. We stay after practice to get extra reps and we stay on the same page to adjust to certain things in the game.”

Arnold’s confidence as a cornerback solidifies Alabama’s secondary as a strength.

He takes on Mississippi State’s wide receiver room this week.

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith. 

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