Vinnie Sunseri heading to the NFL is certainly not the news many Alabama fans were looking to hear. In the latest early entrant to the NFL draft, the Crimson Tide lose a player who could have been an integral piece to the rebuilding efforts.
Linebacker CJ Mosley was the quarterback of the defense and Sunseri was the second in command. As Mosley set the fronts and helped the linebackers and linemen get into the proper alignment, Sunseri worked to do the same for the guys in the back end.
When the junior safety went down against Arkansas, the Crimson Tide's control in the secondary went down with him. Although Landon Collins was physically capable of stepping in and contributing, the defenders clearly missed Sunseri directing traffic.
Now that Sunseri is moving to the NFL, the Crimson Tide will be losing a guy who could have been a rudder for 2014.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has already elected to move on to the NFL, and with Sunseri leaving, that means Collins will be the returning starter at safety.
Jarrick Williams, Collins' backup at the strong safety spot, will likely get a shot to replace Clinton-Dix—as will Geno Smith, another safety who spent 2013 as a backup. Williams saw plenty of action at the Star position, but the transition to full-time safety will certainly test his range and command of the defense.
After a season where the Tide battled legitimate cornerback issues that forced the safeties to compensate, the secondary was certainly an area of interest for the spring.
Now, without Sunseri, the Tide move from just trying to find capable corners to auditioning safety prospects as well.
Throw in the loss of Mosley, and it will be a busy spring in Tuscaloosa. The talent to replace Clinton-Dix, Sunseri and Mosley is certainly on the roster. However, the key in replacing these pieces—especially Mosley and Sunseri—will be the loss of leadership.
Getting a healthy Sunseri back would have certainly provided a boost in the locker room and out on the field. Saban's team will not have that ace in the hole entering 2014. Spring will be a challenging time to earn spots and get time.
The beauty of Alabama is that head coach Nick Saban recruits elite talent on a yearly basis. The players are expected to step up when their number gets called.
Whether it is Smith, Williams or a younger player, Alabama will be looking for someone to answer the bell.