It did not take long for Nick Saban to begin experimenting with his roster, as he moved three offensive players to the secondary during Alabama’s first practice to open the spring—including former running back Dee Hart.
Hart and receivers Cyrus Jones and Christion Jones worked out with the defensive backs on Saturday, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN).
With a backfield stocked full of former prep All-American running backs, the idea of at least one running back moving was not an idea of if, but a matter of when.
If there’s one position where Alabama could be light on depth this spring, it is at the corner position. Plus, having more than two strong corners is a necessity in the era of spread offenses that use four- and five-receiver formations.
The fact that Saban can cover a potential weakness with a former 5-star recruit (per Rivals.com) shows the depth of the program he’s built and his prowess in finding ways to get the most talent possible on the field.
All three players have the athleticism to contribute on either side of the ball and each has had experience playing defense on the prep level. Saban mentioned that as one of the factors that prompted the decision, according to Chris Walsh of BamaOnline (subscription required).
“I don't even know that we're looking to make permanent changes,” Saban said. “We're looking to see if any of those guys can help us, and if this would be a better circumstance for how much they would be able to contribute to our team. The first thing you've got to do to determine that is, 'Can the guy do it? Does he have the physical attributes to be able to do it, and help you in some role.' I've been encouraged by all those guys. They're all really athletic. They've all played defensive back before, so it's not like they're lost, and I don't think there's any way that all those guys are going to end up on defense. Maybe one. Maybe two, if they both have roles”
Hart, a third-year sophomore who has struggled with injuries, is an intriguing option as a nickel or dime corner, provided he returns with a clean bill of health.
Given that Alabama struggled when teams like Texas A&M and Georgia spread it out a year ago, moving an athletic player that is comfortable operating in space to the secondary is a great place to start.
Hart’s biggest challenge will be developing the necessary mentality to play defense at an SEC level. Luckily for his future outlook on defense, Saban is a noted secondary guru and capable of getting him to play a new position at a high level.
In the case of Hart, the move almost makes too much sense for all the parties involved.
With four stud running backs set to join an already crowded backfield, it’s highly unlikely that Hart will get a chance to earn any meaningful reps at that spot.
The position switch for Hart means that he could find a role in the secondary with former prep teammate and current Tide safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and become a valuable part of the defense if he can adjust.
While Hart’s foray over to the defensive side of the ball is still in the experimentation phase, at the very least, it represents a great opportunity for him to impress coaches and earn himself a role on the field this fall.