TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It looks like Alabama will be getting a remedy for the secondary blues that crept up in the Crimson Tide’s opener against West Virginia.
Cornerback Eddie Jackson, who sustained a torn ACL in the spring, has made a faster recovery than most expected and will get his first bit of playing time since injuring his knee in a spring scrimmage.
“He has practiced and he has done well,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said on the SEC teleconference Wednesday. “I feel like we'll play him some in this game, some kind of way, trying to ease him back into what he has to do to become a player at his position, which I think he's totally capable of and a very good player that we're anxious to get back in the lineup, but certainly not at the expense of putting him in any risk.
“From a medical standpoint, he's been cleared. So now we're sort of working him into it, and he's looked pretty good.”
His practice reps would seem to indicate that, too.
During Tuesday’s media viewing period, Jackson worked with the first-team at cornerback in nickel drills, taking Bradley Sylve’s spot opposite Cyrus Jones.
“I think Eddie has done a great job getting the rehab and working hard to get better,” Jones said on Monday. “I don’t really know too much about where he is physically, but if he says he’s ready, I guess he is.”
Jackson’s return to the Alabama defense is a shot in the arm for a Crimson Tide secondary that got beat up against the Mountaineers and got even more bad news this week.
Sylve was the main culprit on the back end for Alabama. He was frequently in coverage against West Virginia’s Kevin White, who caught nine balls for 143 yards and a touchdown.
Sylve actually had good positioning on White most of the time, but his errors were in technique, like not playing the ball on the fade route for a touchdown or missing open-field tackles.
“He's coached to play the ball, he's capable of playing the ball, he didn't play the ball,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “That's poise and confidence. He's supposed to look for the ball and play the ball.”
If Jackson does take Sylve’s place at corner, like his practice reps indicated, it will be a welcome upgrade in several departments.
Jackson wasn’t perfect by any stretch as a freshman in 2013. His high point came against Ole Miss, when he read a wide receiver pass and picked off Laquon Treadwell. But he struggled with consistency, and his playing time was limited.
In the spring, Saban praised Jackson, calling him “probably our best corner, most consistent” before his injury.
He also gives Alabama a big-bodied presence. At 6’0”, 188 pounds, he’s more equipped to handle big SEC receivers than the smaller Sylve. And he can pack a punch, as he also showed in that Ole Miss game.
Jackson’s return will also help, somewhat, to mask an injury that hurts Alabama’s secondary.
Safety Jarrick Williams, a glue guy and veteran for Alabama on the back end who plays in nickel and dime situations, will miss at least four weeks with a foot fracture, according to Saban. Geno Smith likely steps into his role at Star, with a number of younger options at Money when Alabama goes with six defensive backs.
Throwing more inexperience into the mix was the last thing Alabama needed in the secondary. But getting Eddie Jackson back will help to mask some of that and is another step toward getting the defense back on track.
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