TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama gave the definitive word on Vinnie Sunseri today, and it wasn't good.
The Crimson Tide's star safety will have knee surgery and miss the remainder of the season. Head coach Nick Saban only described the injury as "ligament damage," citing team policy to not fully disclose injury news. Marq Burnett of The Anniston Star reported this morning that Sunseri tore a ligament in his left knee.
Alabama will miss Sunseri's big-play ability and on-field leadership. But the good news for the Crimson Tide is that they have built up so much depth that they can replace Sunseri without missing a beat in the secondary.
Meet Landon Collins.
Collins was a 5-star safety coming out of Geismar, La., according to 247Sports. Now a sophomore, he has lived up to the billing so far.
Saban has previously called Collins a "demon" on special teams, where he has primarily played his first two seasons. This year he's also been playing the "Money" position, essentially the sixth defensive back when Alabama goes into its dime defense.
But the last few weeks, Collins has seen his role increase.
Collins played free safety while Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was suspended, and Alabama only allowed 10 points over those two games. Collins had to learn free safety on the fly, as he came in to Alabama as a strong safety.
"It prepared me well," Collins said. "Got me to settled down, got me to see how fast games really are and see that once you slow down and catch your breath and look at the formations, you'll be all right."
When Sunseri went down in the first quarter on Saturday, Clinton-Dix came into the game as the free safety and Collins moved over to strong, as Alabama pitched a 52-0 shutout of Arkansas.
And now that Sunseri is out, Collins will be back in his natural position for good.
"Landon's been a very good player for us in whatever role that we've asked him to play," Saban said. "He's played 'Money.' He's played some free safety. He's played strong safety. Strong safety is his natural position. When we had all of our players, he was Vinnie's backup, so that's where he got the majority of his reps."
With Clinton-Dix and Collins, the Crimson Tide will feature 10 stars at the safety position, as Clinton-Dix was also a 5-star (according to 247Sports) coming out of high school.
For Alabama fans who follow recruiting closely, this is the combo they have dreamed about for the last few years.
And as you look farther down the depth chart, the trickle-down effect doesn't look so bad, either.
Jarrick Williams, who has locked down the "Star" position all season, can also play free and strong safety should further attrition strike.
And at "Money," Alabama used sophomore Geno Smith on Saturday, and Saban hinted on Monday that he would play there going forward. Smith was the primary "Star" at the end of last season, playing well in the SEC and BCS championship games.
There is no doubt that Alabama will miss Sunseri. But continuous success in recruiting gives the Tide more than enough depth to overcome the loss.
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