Though Eli Ricks’ time with Alabama football hasn’t gone completely according to plan, things are looking up following his first start of the season on October 22 against Mississippi State in a 30-6 rout — with former Alabama star linebacker Reggie Ragland, now an NFL free agent after last playing for the New York Giants in 2021.
Ragland tagged Ricks in a quote tweet, telling the cornerback that if he just works, ‘everything (he) wants is right there in front of (him). The original tweet from Ricks was a proclamation that he was happy to return to the field after sitting out the first 3 games of SEC West play.
— Reggie Ragland (@reggieragland) October 24, 2022
Ricks had a team-high 4 pass breakups, tied with Kool-Aid McKinstry, against Mississippi State. The Crimson Tide defense as a unit had 15, which was a season-high in 2022. Ricks also tallied 2 tackles.
Nick Saban Praised Eli Ricks After Mississippi State Win
Nick Saban got his Crimson Tide back on track against a Mississippi State offense he figured would give him a better run than it did. Will Rogers had just 231 passing yards on 60 attempts on October 22 a week after being held to 203 yards against Kentucky. In Rogers’ Bulldogs career, the gunslinger has just 4 games without a passing touchdown, and Alabama was the opponent in 3 of them.
While we don’t know if second-year cornerback Terrion Arnold would or would not have helped maintain the Crimson Tide defense’s dominance against Mississippi State, Eli Ricks insertion into the starting cornerback role a week after Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker targeted Arnold 7 times (completing 5 passes) worked out well for Alabama.
Saban praised Ricks for his performance during the October 22 postgame scrum, giving up just 1 catch in Cover 5 formation. “I thought he did a good job,” Saban said. “He gave up one throw. When you’re playing five under man, you’re supposed to be underneath the guy, so the guy shouldn’t be able to catch a comeback on you and caught one on him. Caught one on Kool-Aid on 4th and 10.”
“But I thought he played well,” Saban continued. “He did a good job. He prepared well all week. I thought he played pretty well in the game.”
Eli Ricks’ Alabama Teammates Also Supported Him
In addition to Nick Saban’s endorsement — inarguably the most important of any within the Alabama football program — Eli Ricks got plenty of support from his Crimson Tide teammates as well.
Veteran safety DeMarcco Hellams praised Ricks for his work ethic week in and week out whether or not he’s in the lineup following the Mississippi State win. “Eli did a great job today,”Hellams said. “He always prepares like a starter. He did a great job stepping up when his opportunity came. He did a great job today. … He definitely is a great DB. His length is definitely a plus for him. He’s great at ready routes, he’s great at understanding the cornerback position and he did a great job today.”
Quarterback Bryce Young credited Ricks on October 22 postgame for adjusting to the system change from LSU under Ed Orgeron in 2021 to Alabama’s in 2022. “Super happy to see him play like he did,” Young said. “Really just seeing how hard he works in practice. Regardless of the circumstances that he’s been in throughout the year, he’s still practiced with the same energy, still had the same mindset, still attacked every day in practice. Obviously, he came in, a new system, picking it up.”
“You saw that steady improvement from when he got here to now, and for it to all translate, him to put it together and him on the field to play like he did, it’s great to see,” Young continued. “Just to see your teammate be successful, it means a lot to me.”