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Alabama spring practice breakdown: Grading defensive back room for the Crimson Tide

Photo comes via SEC Media Portal

Spring practice is over for Alabama football, but fans did see some things that caught their attention.

Kalen DeBoer has high expectations for this group in the post Nick Saban era.

RELATED: Alabama spring practice breakdown: Grading wide receiver room for the Crimson Tide

He has his eyes on a College Football Playoff National Championship, but he knows all the pieces must be in place. Alabama returns experience in its defensive secondary, but it also has young players. The Crimson Tide lost Kool-Aid McKinstry, Terrion Arnold, and Jaylen Key to the NFL Draft. Several names, including Trey Amos, Earl Little, Jake Pope, and Antonio Kite, left Alabama for other teams in the transfer portal.

Maurice Linguist (cornerbacks coach) and Colin Hitschler (safeties coach) are making sure Alabama has an elite secondary. The breakdown of how the Tide’s defensive backs performed in spring are below.

UA’s defensive back room in 2024 spring practice

-Malachi Moore

-Keon Sabb (transfer)

-DeVonta Smith

-Domani Jackson (transfer)

-Jahlil Hurley

-Red Morgan (freshman)

-Zabien Brown (freshman)

-Zavier Mincey (freshman)

-Dre Kirkpatrick Jr. (freshman)

-Peyton Woodyard (freshman)

-Jaylen Mbakwe (freshman)

-Brayson Hubbard

-Tony Mitchell


Malachi Moore’s decision to return to Alabama for a fifth season was very significant.

He provides exceptional leadership to a young secondary.

Keon Sabb, a transfer from Michigan, is coming off a College Football Playoff National Championship victory over Washington.

Sabb, a New Jersey native, had 28 tackles, five pass breakups, and two interceptions in 2023.

He played well off Moore in spring practice for the Crimson Tide at free safety. The two could create turnovers on the back end to put Alabama’s offense in plus territory to score. DeVonta Smith, a fourth-year defensive back, earned playing time late in the 2023 season after an injury.

He hurt his foot in preseason camp, but Smith was able to return and play in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game against Georgia.

He is battling for a starting opportunity at ‘Husky’ or free safety. Domani Jackson, a transfer from the University of Southern California (USC), looks to be one of two starting cornerbacks. Jahlil Hurley, a former five-star in the 2023 class, is pushing to be the other starter, but he has to fend off talented freshmen. The trio of Jaylen Mbakwe, Zabien Brown, and Zavier Mincey are competing to start as freshmen cornerbacks. Red Morgan, a freshman, had a tremendous spring and is looking to make his impact at ‘Husky.’ He also earned reps at free safety in practice, rotating with Sabb.

Dre Kirkpatrick recorded an interception on A-Day; however, it got called back because of a penalty.

Brayson Hubbard and Tony Mitchell have knowledge of the system, and Hubbard made big tackles in the spring game. Mitchell, who stands at 6-2, has the physicality needed for the defensive backfield. Moore has the most experience, but the secondary has a lot of potential as a whole if everyone locks in.

The group had a good spring, but they have a lot of moving parts. Alabama has to find the best five to six players for the rotation.

Spring Practice Grade: B+

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Grading Alabama’s ILB room after spring practice

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

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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