Nick Saban Shares Cryptic Update on Alabama’s Starting Corners

Getty TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA - SEPTEMBER 25: Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks on against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles during the second half at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 25, 2021.

For most of the Alabama Crimson Tide’s offseason, one of the most enticing position battles has been the secondary group on defense. This competition has become so competitive that not even Head Coach Nick Saban can tell us who will start where.

“There’s a lot of competition,” Saban said when asked by reporters. “I can’t tell you who the starters are. I think we’ve got four guys, maybe five, competing for positions.”

While Saban did not comment as to who these four or five players could be it is likely that we may already have a good idea as to who they could be. It is still to be determined if the recent injuries to two cornerbacks will effect their chances of starting. 

These Are The Seniors Gunning For A Starting Role

The current battle for a starting position in the deep corps includes senior Jordan Battle, senior Khyree Jackson, senior DeMarcco Hellams, sophomore Kool-Aid McKinstry, junior Brian Branch and junior transfer Eli Ricks from LSU. This may be one of the deepest secondary groups in Saban’s history with the Tide and they are surely ready to unleash nightmares upon opposing offenses each Saturday. 

Battle, who has been starting at a secondary position for the last two seasons, is more than likely to remain in one. In 2021, he recorded 86 total tackles and three interceptions, returning two for a touchdown. Battle also landed on the preseason AP All-American list at safety. 

Jackson, whose first season with the Tide was in 2021, looks to make a name for himself in his last eligible season as a senior. Only appearing in 12 games during 2021, Jackson still impressed when needed and even showed extreme growth throughout the season. Although he was mostly used in special teams last year, he did well enough to earn special teams player of the week awarded by the coaching staff for the Auburn and SEC Championship matchup.

Hellams, who is looking to start for the second straight year, made quite the impression in 2021 as he led the entire secondary in tackles with 87. He also recorded three interceptions for the Tide and will look to be a ball hawk once again during the 2022 campaign. 

The Rest of The Pack Aiming To Start

Perhaps one of the most highly-anticipated arrivals in Tuscaloosa this offseason is Eli Ricks, who decided to transfer from LSU before the 2021 season was even finished. It is hard to deny the fact that when Saban brings in transfers they’re to plug holes in position groups that need them, but this scenario is entirely different. The secondary group this year is stacked, and on top of that Saban goes out and recruits a former five-star athlete from a rival. 

Since joining the Tigers in 2020, Ricks only appeared in 14 games, but 2021 was supposed to be a breakout season for him. Unfortunately, he would get injured, cutting his season short. Ricks did a lot of thinking and decided on a move to the University of Alabama. There is no question that Ricks is as talented as they come, but where the real problem lies is whether or not he will stay healthy in the long run. Ricks entering 2022 without a starting nod has also been awarded preseason AP All-American honors

McKinstry, who arrived in Tuscaloosa last year has left fans in awe with his utter talent. After playing in all 15 games as a freshman he was named to the All-SEC Freshman team. McKinstry slowly moved into a starting position late in the season recording 12 tackles during the postseason’s three matchups. Although he is still the youngest player in this battle there is no need to count him out from starting at any point during the 2022 season. 

Last, but certainly not least is Branch who has started on different occasions since he was a freshman in the 2020 season. Branch is the dynamic player on defense that Saban can throw anywhere wherever he needs. In 2021 alone, he recorded 55 total tackles and two interceptions. Standing at only 6 feet tall, he is the shortest of the group competing for a starting role, but that hasn’t stopped Branch before and it certainly won’t in the future.

The answer we’ve all been waiting for will not have to wait much longer as we’re very close to the beginning of Alabama’s season. They will take on the Utah State Aggies at home on September 3, 2022 at home.

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