With Alabama past the halfway mark of spring football practice, junior safety Xavier McKinney is not lacking for attention out on the field.
For the first time in Nick Saban's 13 years in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide are employing a safeties coach and a cornerbacks coach. Karl Scott is handling the cornerbacks this year after overseeing the entire secondary last season, while Charles Kelly is in charge of the safeties after having that same role last season with Tennessee.
"I don't think it's that different," McKinney said in a recent news conference. "We're just getting coached by two different people with two different perspectives. We see what Coach Kelly sees and what Coach Scott sees.
"It's good for us, because it helps us look at stuff in different ways so we can get better."
Alabama held its ninth of 15 spring practices Monday, working out in full pads. The Tide will practice again Wednesday and Friday and scrimmage for a second time Saturday.
Kelly was Florida State's defensive coordinator until spending last season with Jeremy Pruitt's Volunteers, and he has the added title of associate defensive coordinator with the Tide. Alabama's defensive coordinator is Pete Golding, who oversees the inside linebackers but provides another set of eyeballs on McKinney and each of his fellow defenders.
"He does what he's supposed to do," McKinney said of Golding. "He helps the DBs. He helps everybody."
Yet when it comes to the practice setting at Alabama, all assistants take the back seat to Saban, a former secondary coach who continues to migrate over to the defensive backs during workouts.
"He's still in there," McKinney said with a smile. "It's the same ol,' same ol' as far as that. I try not to focus on whether Coach Saban is looking or not. I just try and do everything the right way."
McKinney is the most established of Alabama's defensive backs this year, with the 6-foot-1, 196-pounder from the Atlanta suburb of Roswell having collected 73 tackles, six tackles for loss and three sacks last season for the Southeastern Conference champions. He also had two interceptions, returning one for a 30-yard touchdown during the 62-7 shellacking of Ole Miss in Oxford.
In Alabama's closing stretch last season, McKinney had tackles for loss against Auburn in the Iron Bowl and Georgia in the SEC title game, and he followed that by earning defensive MVP honors in the Orange Bowl win over Oklahoma. He had a team-high seven tackles in the humbling 44-16 loss to Clemson, an encounter he brings up to younger players.
"That kind of gets them going, and it gets my energy level up," he said.
Saban recently praised McKinney for his performance in offseason workouts and in the first few spring practices.
"You couldn't ask a guy to set a better example," Saban said. "His practice habits have been phenomenal. He's doing everything he can to set a good example and be a leader for other players."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.