Forgive Alabama student-athlete Deionte Thompson for putting the athlete ahead of the student in the immediate months ahead.
The redshirt junior is the most experienced member of a Crimson Tide secondary that is without six familiar faces from a year ago, but that's not why Thompson is thinking football first. The 6-foot-2, 194-pound safety is a recent graduate in environmental science and will be taking some online courses during the fall semester.
"I won't be in class that much," Thompson said in a news conference earlier this week, "so I'll be here watching film and taking care of my body."
Thompson is somewhat of a last man standing after the departures of Anthony Averett, Tony Brown, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ronnie Harrison, Hootie Jones and Levi Wallace from last season's national championship team. All six are now competing to make their marks on NFL rosters, with all but Jones having been drafted in April.
Quality playing time for Thompson began late last season after Jones tore an MCL in the loss at Auburn. Thompson was thrust into the starting lineup for playoff games against Clemson and Georgia and totaled seven tackles during the two victories.
Thompson finished last season with 25 tackles, and he had a 21-yard interception return in the blowout win against Mercer.
"I gained a lot of confidence, just playing with the guys I played with — Minkah, Ronnie, Levi, Anthony," Thompson said. "Just being in the games with those guys and getting a feel for what was going on at that time was a great learning experience.
"Being in those games taught you how things go. I can relate to the guys around me now and can tell them how it's going to be so we can have a feel going into the first game."
Thompson hopes for both a productive season on the field and a quiet one away from it. The former top-50 national prospect from Orange, Texas, went home for spring break last year and allegedly was in a brawl at Crystal Beach, with Thompson being accused of kicking 18-year-old Noah Frillou in the head while Frillou was on the ground.
There have been witnesses who claimed Thompson was involved and witnesses who claimed he wasn't.
Last October, Thompson was indicted on a second-degree felony aggravated assault charge, and he is scheduled to appear in court Oct. 8 in Galveston County. He has maintained his innocence and was never suspended.
"It seems like a lot of nothing with everything we can find out about," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said last summer.
Thompson heads a retooling secondary that includes fellow safety Xavier McKinney, receiver-turned-cornerback Trevon Diggs and two newcomers who are expected to provide an immediate impact — former LSU signee Saivion Smith and five-star freshman cornerback Patrick Surtain.
It's the biggest question mark for a program seeking its sixth national title in a decade, and it's under constant supervision, which starts with Saban.
"He's watching you all the time," Thompson said. "Even when he's not around, he's watching. He'll watch you on film and tell you exactly what you're doing in a meeting, even before a play pops up."
Alabama is scheduled to hold its first preseason scrimmage this afternoon inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.