Alabama Football: Power Ranking the Crimson Tide Safety Unit
When it comes to filling the holes of the four former Alabama stars that were selected in the first round of April’s NFL draft, safety Mark Barron may be the toughest member of that quartet to replace.
It’s simply impossible to lose a talent like Barron without some sort of drop-off, but the Crimson Tide will have a mix of experience, youth and talent on hand to complement senior returning starter Robert Lester.
Which stud sophomore—Vinnie Sunseri or Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix—will take over for Barron?
Can seldom-used juniors Jarrick Williams and Nick Perry hold off incoming hotshot recruit Landon Collins?
Find out in this breakdown of Alabama’s safety unit.
With three of the five returning lettermen at safety being upperclassmen, Saban needed to land an impact prospect in the 2012 recruiting class.
After winning a highly-publicized battle for 5-star Geismar (LA) product Landon Collins, Saban accomplished that mission.
Another incoming 5-star recruit—Panama City (FL) athlete Eddie Williams—could possibly end up at safety as well.
Expect Collins to push Williams and Perry for a spot in the rotation, and try to make a name for himself on the special teams unit.
4. Tie: Jarrick Williams and Nick Perry
About the only thing separating the two 6’1” juniors is that Williams (210 pounds) is five pounds heavier than Perry (205 pounds).
Williams has appeared in 10 games over the last two seasons, recording six tackles in limited action mostly on special teams—while Perry saw action in 13 games and made three tackles and a pass break-up.
Granted, with elite talents like Barron and Lester in front of them, it’s not a surprise that the fellow members of the Tide’s 2010 recruiting class struggled to get meaningful game reps.
However, with a hungry talent like Collins lurking, both players need to seize the moment if they want a chance to contribute before their careers in Tuscaloosa come to a close.
3. Vinnie Sunseri
Sunseri came to Alabama as an undersized linebacker, but instead found a home at safety en route to a solid debut season that ended with him earning a spot on the Freshman All-SEC team.
Considering his versatility to be a playmaker at various positions, it should not come as a surprise that he was used all over the field (at linebacker, nickel corner and safety) in the Crimson Tide’s spring game.
While it may not be clear what position he will spend the majority of his time at this season, Sunseri will undoubtedly be a huge part of the defense as a jack of all trades for defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
2. Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix
Perhaps another reason that Sunseri will be free to be a roaming playmaker this fall is the emergence of Clinton-Dix—a former 5-star safety in the 2011 class.
The coaches are excited about the Orlando native’s potential, even though he mainly played on special teams last season as a true freshman.
Clinton-Dix was one of five players to receive the Ozzie Newsome Most Improved Freshmen Award following the spring game—where he coincidentally shined, recording three tackles, one interception and a forced fumble.
If that performance was any indication, the 6’1”, 203-pounder could be headed for a breakout sophomore campaign.
1. Robert Lester
With Barron off to the NFL, all eyes will be on Lester to see if he can return to his playmaking form from 2010—when he recorded 52 tackles and had eight interceptions.
As the only full-time returning starter in the secondary, Saban will rely on the 6’2”, 210-pounder—one of just four senior starters on defense—to help the newcomers adjust until they get comfortable.
Lester will be one of the best safeties in the SEC, and after putting off the NFL to return for his final season in Tuscaloosa, he needs a strong year to boost his draft stock.
Simply put, he will play a vital role if Alabama’s defense expects to maintain the dominant standards set by last season’s unit.