With the loss of Deion Belue and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix from Alabama's secondary last year, Nick Saban was in desperate search of a playmaker for his 2014 secondary.
In Alabama's A-Day game, he may have found one in freshman cornerback Tony Brown.
According to 247Sports, the electrifying Brown was a 5-star prospect and the second-best cornerback of the 2014 class.
Last season, although the Crimson Tide ranked 11th in the FBS in pass yards allowed per game, Alabama's secondary still looked like a liability at times. Too often the Crimson Tide gave up big plays, especially after losing top safety Vinnie Sunseri to injury in late October.
The secondary was particularly exposed in the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma. Trevor Knight, the Sooners quarterback, had only reached 100 or more passing yards in a game twice in seven appearances.
Against Alabama, Knight racked up 348 yards and four touchdowns—he had only thrown five touchdowns all year up to that point—en route to 45-31 victory for the Sooners.
Brown may be the answer to last year's woes in the secondary. With great speed, Brown has the ability to bait quarterbacks into making bad decisions. In the A-Day game, he blanketed receivers all day and even got himself an interception.
He also showed in the spring game that he's hard-nosed. Despite wearing a black "no contact" jersey, he recorded four tackles, per Tide 99.1 FM.
Tony Brown clearly doesn't get the concept of "non-contact". 4 tackles and an INT in his debut with the team. Looks sharp— Tide 99.1 (@Tide991fm) April 19, 2014
Nobody is surprised by Brown's speed or his freakish athleticism. An Olympic-level hurdler, Brown recently recorded the fourth-fastest 60-meter hurdle time in the university's history, per Michael Casagrande of AL.com.
In the spring, Brown was able to move up the spring depth chart after rising sophomore defensive back Eddie Jackson, who started four games as a true freshman last year, tore his ACL in early April, according to Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com.
Saban: Tony Brown is a guy that has a lot of ability — very fast, very explosive.— Alex Scarborough (@AlexS_ESPN) April 19, 2014
Saban's secondaries are his specialty. According to Team Rankings, the Crimson Tide have been ranked in the top 15 in the FBS in pass defense every year since 2011.
Guys like Mark Barron, Javier Arenas and Dre Kirkpatrick have all gone on to the NFL after going through Saban's tutelage.
It's now becoming more and more apparent that Brown will soon be added to that list. And since he's just a freshman, it looks like he'll be a playmaker for Saban and Co. for years to come.