Secondary’s versatility leads defense into 2019 season


CW / Hannah Saad

James Benedetto, Assistant Sports Editor

The “trust the process” saying is a difficult statement to believe in when it does not work.

In Alabama’s championship loss to Clemson more than seven months ago, critics were quick to point out that the “process” to beat the Tigers was outmatched by a team with a hunger for revenge and a surplus of talent at the offensive skill positions.

Despite all of the criticism of the team’s performance back in January, senior cornerback Trevon Diggs still has faith in the “Alabama way” and how it translates to the team’s secondary.

“I feel like we have a lot more confidence, a lot of guys knowing what to do and how to do it,” Diggs said. “I feel like a lot more confidence on the back end.” 

Diggs, who is no stranger to coach Nick Saban’s process of success, started the first six games of 2018 before breaking his foot against Arkansas. While he recovered, true freshman Patrick Surtain II was thrown into the fire, starting the last 12 games of the year and playing at both Star and outside. Versatility is a necessity for players looking for time on the field in this year’s secondary.

“I think the most important thing is that you have enough guys on your team who have the diversity to learn more than one position,” Saban said. “We are fortunate I think now that we have a lot more guys this year that can do this, it is very similar to the offensive line. If you only have guys that can play tackle, you only have guys that can play guard and you only have guys that can play center, if one guy goes down you can’t get the best five guys in the game cause there is no diversity to move guys around. Same thing in the secondary you have one guy go down, if you have diversity, you can still get the best guys in there that have the most experience because they have the diversity to play multiple positions.”

This season the emphasis on position “diversity” has shown throughout the secondary with players such as senior Shyheim Carter playing both spots at safety and at Star, junior Xavier McKinney taking reps at both safety positions and at Money and even redshirt freshman Jayln Armour-Davis has seen some action at corner and Star.

Carter’s position flexibility specifically has established him as a mentor for younger players on the team. Freshman wide receiver Jaylen Waddle said Carter pushes him to be better at every little detail.

“It’s a mind game,” Waddle said. “Shyheim’s been in the system a lot, so he knows exactly how to play and where to play. So, his deception is really good, and me and him have some real good battles.”

A player like Carter is not just the player young DBs turn to if they get a defensive call wrong or blow their assignment. He also helps out fellow veterans like McKinneywho started all 15 games last year at safety.

“Shy is a smart dude,” McKinney said. “You could put Shy anywhere, and he’ll get it like that. Since I’ve got here, he’s known the defense all the way around like the back of his hand. For him, he picks up on stuff pretty fast. You don’t really have to tell him a whole bunch of stuff. He’s pretty much a fast learner. He knows the defense like the back of his hand.”

McKinney is looked at as the leader of the defense, according to his teammates. Junior Dylan Moses spoke highly of the safety, saying that McKinney echoing his calls assures him that he’s said the right thing.

I pride myself on always being a leader,” McKinney said. “I don’t think anything changes with me now being a junior. I’m always trying to be a leader and make sure guys do the right things. … I try to remind the guys of how the season ended last year. That gets me going and gets my energy levels up.”