Eli Ricks returns to Baton Rouge in new starting role

Michael DeVito, Contributing Writer

On Saturday night, the Alabama Crimson Tide will face off against LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for a crucial SEC matchup. 

For former LSU defensive back Eli Ricks, it will be a homecoming affair and the first time he will be facing off against his former teammates. 

Ricks spent the last two seasons at LSU with the Tigers as an important piece of the defense in the 2020 season. In his freshman and sophomore seasons under head coach Ed Orgeron, Ricks appeared in 14 games.  

As a freshman, he racked up 20 tackles, four interceptions and five pass breakups including touchdowns against South Carolina and Florida. After the season, he was named to the Associated Press All-American third team as well as a Freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America. In the same season, he was second team All-SEC and placed on the SEC All-Freshman team. 

Ricks suffered a mid-season injury in 2021, ending his season and time as a Tiger.  

In November 2021, Ricks entered the transfer portal, and a month later, the former five-star recruit decided to transfer to The University of Alabama.  

Up until last week, Ricks was more or less a non-factor for the Crimson Tide. But in Alabama’s last game against Mississippi State two weeks ago, Ricks came up huge in a Crimson Tide secondary that was in shambles after allowing 52 points to Tennessee. 

“Felt good to be back on the pitch last night,” Ricks said on Twitter after the game. “Glad to have contributed!” 

Head coach Nick Saban felt strongly about how Ricks performed. 

“I thought he [Ricks] did a good job — he only gave up one throw. He prepared well all week, I thought he played pretty well in the game,” Saban said. 

“Fundamentally we worked really hard to get Eli to understand the expectations of what we want him to do,” Saban said. “He played well last game so hopefully he can build on that.” 

Fellow cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry noticed the improvement of his teammate as well. 

 “He’s been preparing very well for each game whether he wasn’t going to play or was going to play, but he balled out,” McKinstry said. 

On Saturday, Alabama has another big game ahead as there is a three-way tie between the Crimson Tide, LSU and Ole Miss for first place in the SEC West — and a spot in the SEC Championship — with only three games remaining.  

Saban, who won a national title with the Tigers in 2003, knows the mental effects of playing in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night. 

LSU is coming off of a bye week after an important win against No. 11 Ole Miss, after overcoming a 14-point deficit. Alabama is coming off of a bye week as well, following its victory against Mississippi State.  

All signs are pointing to a close game. All of the Crimson Tide’s road games this season have gone down to the wire. The last time the Tigers defeated the Crimson Tide was in 2019 at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Led by Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, the Tigers put up 46 points to beat Alabama, eventually winning the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship. In the two historic rivals’ last meeting, the Crimson Tide won 20-14. 

Kickoff in Baton Rouge is set for Saturday, Nov. 5, at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN.

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]