Alabama football: Occasionally suspect in 2018, secondary will be a strength in 2019
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama’s defense retools every year, and 2019 will be no different.
Defensive lineman Raekwon Davis, and linebackers Dylan Moses and Anfernee Jennings are back to man the front lines, but who will play alongside them or behind them is still a work-in-progress with starters from last year like Quinnen Williams, Isaiah Buggs, Mack Wilson and Christian Miller moving on to the NFL.
The secondary, however, has fewer personnel questions. Most of the unit returns. And the expectation is that the group that surrendered three consecutive 300-yard passing games and 8 combined TD passes to end last season will make amends in 2019.
Alabama lost Deionte Thompson early to the NFL, but Trevon Diggs has returned from injury. Diggs has been working as the nickel defensive back. That has put rising sophomores Patrick Surtain II and Josh Jobe at the two cornerback spots.
Xavier McKinney, a rising junior, will anchor one of the starting safety spots. All that is left is the safety position left by Thompson. It looks like seniors Jared Mayden and Shyheim Carter are competing for that spot. Both are experienced and talented so Alabama will be fine either way, and whichever one doesn’t win the job could easily step into the sixth defensive back role in Alabama’s dime package.
If the top three corners stick, Alabama could have three long, tall and athletic players as Jobe, Surtain and Diggs all stand around 6-1.
Diggs was poised for a breakout season last year before an early foot injury sidelined him for the year. Diggs will be looking to play well for the team along with making a case for why he should be one of the top defensive backs in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Diggs has all the traits to be an elite cornerback if he can stay healthy.
Surtain, a 5-star from Alabama’s 2018 class, is as talented as they come. He was thrown into action after Saivion Smith struggled against Ole Miss, and held on to the starting spot the rest of the way. Surtain struggled down the stretch as the receivers got better, but it’s honestly the best thing that could have happened to him. He’ll have film to lean on when it comes to working on his technique so he can improve to handle the elite receivers in college football.
Jobe’s first meaningful action came in the National Championship Game after Saivion Smith went down. Talk about trial by fire. Jobe came off the bench and looked solid. If he can take the next step, Alabama’s cornerbacks could be one of the best groups in the country.
McKinney looks ready to have an All-American-type season. He’s physical, he can cover and he is a demon off the edge when Alabama decides to send him on blitzes. It wouldn’t be a surprise if McKinney was the defensive MVP this season. McKinney finished third on the team with 73 tackles to go with 3 sacks and 2 interceptions. All those numbers should go up this season.
Given the returning talent and the experience the group has overall, Alabama’s secondary should be one of the strengths of the defense and the entire team this season.