Alabama secondary remains 'work in progress'

Alabama secondary remains 'work in progress'

April 14th, 2018 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Alabama football coach Nick Saban watches defensive back Saivion Smith (8) close in on receiver DeVonta Smith during a practice this spring. DeVonta Smith also has worked some in the secondary due to the lack of depth.

Photo by Robert Sutton

Alabama wasn't expected to replace last season's secondary overnight.

Or through 11 spring practices, for that matter.

"We have a lot of inexperienced guys there, so it's been a little bit of a work in progress," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said this week in a news conference. "I think guys have made improvement. Are we where we need to be? Not really.

"Am I disappointed in the progress? No. I really enjoy the challenge of trying to coach the guys."

Alabama practiced Friday afternoon and will conduct its second spring scrimmage this afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium, with the first having been held last Saturday.

The reigning national champion is having to replenish somehow a position area that lost four players to expired eligibility — Anthony Averett, Tony Brown, Hootie Jones and Levi Wallace — and two others to early departures to the NFL: Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison. All but Jones earned invitations to the NFL combine in late February.

Alabama's most experienced defensive backs this spring are redshirt junior safety Deionte Thompson and junior cornerback Trevon Diggs. Thompson started the two playoff games after Jones injured a knee in the loss at Auburn, while Diggs started last season's opener against Florida State before being replaced by Wallace.

Diggs missed multiple practices this spring with an ankle injury, and Saban has used sophomore receiver DeVonta Smith occasionally in the secondary to help with depth. Smith caught the winning touchdown pass in January's overtime win over Georgia in the national championship game.

Those looking to help fill the void later this year include Shyheim Carter, Jared Mayden, Xavier McKinney, Nigel Knott, Keaton Anderson, Daniel Wright and Saivion Smith, a former five-star prospect who signed with LSU and played one season in Baton Rouge. More candidates are arriving this summer, with that list headed by Patrick Surtain Jr., the top-rated cornerback in the 2018 signing class.

"We've got some young players coming in," Saban said, "and there is no doubt we're going to have to use some of those guys for some depth at some of our positions in the secondary."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.


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