Alabama Football: Power Ranking the Crimson Tide Cornerback Unit
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Nick Saban’s reputation as a master developer of talent in the secondary will be tested this fall—especially at the corner positions with Alabama losing last year’s starters Dre Kirkpatrick and De’Quan Menzie to the NFL.
Add the loss of stud safety Mark Barron, and the challenge to remake the Crimson Tide secondary into a unit that resembles last year’s record-setting unit becomes magnified.
Despite those losses, Saban has a mix of talented holdovers from last season combined with an influx of highly-touted newcomers—including a pair from the JUCO ranks that enrolled in January and went through spring drills.
Which players should Crimson Tide fans expect to see contributing at corner this fall?
Find out in this breakdown of Alabama’s cornerback group.
6. Jabriel Washington
Jabriel Washington HS Highlights, Courtesy 247 Sports
Washington—a dynamic athlete from Tennessee—was a member of the 2011 class who redshirted last season.
After playing both ways in high school, Washington used his year away from the field to add 18 pounds to his 5’11” frame. He now checks in at 183 pounds, which should considerably help his quest to find a home in the secondary.
While he may be raw, his athleticism presents Saban with an intriguing option to help push veterans John Fulton and Dee Milliner.
Highly-touted true freshman Geno Smith will also join the mix when fall camp begins in August.
5. Bradley Sylve
Bradley Sylve HS Highlights, Courtesy 247 Sports
After arriving at Alabama as an athlete capable of playing on either side of the ball, Sylve has settled on lining up at cornerback—with a little encouragement from his head coach.
On a team loaded with elite athletes, the 5’11, 178-pound Sylve could be the fastest player on the Crimson Tide roster having clocked a 10.18 time in the 100-meter dash on the track.
Although he is getting comfortable in a new position, the former Under-Armour All-American could use his experience playing receiver on the prep level in his quest to find a spot in the corner rotation this fall.
4. Travell Dixon
Travell Dixon JUCO Highlights
The 6’1”, 191-pound Dixon arrived at Alabama in January after spending two seasons at Eastern Arizona College in the JUCO ranks.
Dixon possesses the size and necessary skills to contribute at any one of the corner positions, but his best chance to see the field could be at the “star” position in nickel and dime coverages.
While fellow JUCO corner Deion Belue may have adjusted to the college pace a bit faster than his fellow JUCO import, Dixon (six tackles and a pass breakup in the spring game) will get a chance to climb the depth chart when fall camp begins in August.
3. John Fulton
Fulton has mostly contributed on special teams in his first two seasons at Alabama, but this year he has a chance to claim a starting role.
Fulton has mostly contributed on special teams in his first two seasons, but he’s patiently waited behind the likes of Kirkpatrick and Menzie for a chance to earn a starting spot.
Now, he and Belue will carry their competition for the spot opposite Milliner into fall camp.
Unfortunately for the 6’0”, 187-pound Fulton, he may best be known for drawing Saban’s ire when he got mixed up in a tussle on a special teams play in the third quarter of last season’s victory over Florida.
However, this season, expect the Manning (SC) native to show why he was one of the most coveted corners available in the prep class of 2010.
2. Deion Belue
Deion Belue JUCO Highlights, Courtesy 247 Sports
Belue was originally a member of Saban’s 2010 recruiting class, but he had to go the JUCO route before finding his way back to Tuscaloosa.
He emerged as a playmaker at corner in the spring, and will battle junior John Fulton for the starting nod opposite DeMarcus “Dee” Milliner.
Given Saban’s penchant for dipping into the JUCO ranks and finding players to step in immediately and contribute (Terrance Cody, Jesse Williams and Menzie are examples of this), Belue figures to play a vital role in the corner rotation.
The 5’11”, 178-pounder also will double as an ace return man on the Crimson Tide’s special-teams units.
1. Dee Milliner
Milliner led Alabama in interceptions last season with three ... including one he returned 35 yards for a touchdown against Auburn.
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Milliner is easily the most experienced corner on the roster for the Crimson Tide in 2012—with the rising junior having recorded six starts last season.
The 6’1”, 200-pound Milliner also played extensively as a true freshman in 2010, and his career production (82 tackles, 16 pass breakups and four interceptions) suggests that he is primed to add his name to long list of All-American caliber corners produced by Saban.
Milliner led the Crimson Tide in interceptions last season with three—including a pick that he returned for 35 yards for a touchdown against Auburn.
In a year where the Crimson Tide will see a significant amount of turnover at the corner position, Milliner is a proven commodity that Saban can count on to perform at the level expected from his corners.