Mark Edwards: Humphrey's commitment helps Tide shore up trouble spot
by Mark Edwards
medwards@annistonstar.com
Jan 29, 2014 | 2847 views |  0 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama coach Nick Saban (Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Alabama coach Nick Saban (Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
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While the snow and ice paralyzed parts of the state, it apparently didn’t affect Alabama’s football staff.

The Crimson Tide recruiting effort pulled in a major prospect when Hoover High’s Marlon Humphrey took advantage of down time Wednesday morning to commit to Alabama.

Humphrey, whose dad Bobby Humphrey was a popular Tide running back in the 1980s, gives Nick Saban a five-star cornerback and helps shore up a trouble spot from this past season. Alabama also has another five-star cornerback joining the rotation — Tony Brown, who enrolled earlier this month.

In addition, the Crimson Tide has two other highly regarded cornerbacks returning, Eddie Jackson and Maurice Smith, both of whom were true freshmen this past season.

That gives Saban a decent stable of young talent, and with Jackson and Smith having a year of experience apiece, Humphrey and Brown won’t be pushed to contribute a lot immediately — unless they’re ready.

Part of Alabama’s trouble at cornerback this past year was caused by injury. The most experienced and best cornerback, Deion Belue, never was completely healthy.

Also, Alabama struggled with inconsistency. After five season of rarely having to change the lineup at cornerback, the Crimson Tide lost that luxury in 2013. The lineup was made out with pencil, instead of pen. Five other cornerbacks started at least one game each, including Jackson, Smith, Cyrus Jones, John Fulton and Bradley Sylve.

Jones and Sylve are rising juniors and return as well. In addition, Jonathan Cook and Anthony Averett redshirted last season, so they could join the mix. Cook especially appears to be a solid prospect.

So Alabama should have enough competition at the position that it won’t be stuck leaving somebody who isn’t productive on the field.

That potential depth should play a role at more than the two cornerback spots. These days, teams rarely play the base defense of two safeties and two cornerbacks. About 80 percent of the time (or more), teams use five or six defensive backs. So that talent pool probably will be needed to help provide the fifth and sixth guy.

Alabama safety Jarrick Williams played last year at the Star position, which is what Saban calls the fifth defensive back. He will return, too, as he is a rising senior.

Bottom line, Alabama appears better off at the important position of cornerback than it was last season. You could argue that a major factor between going 12-2 and winning a third straight national title was its play at cornerback.

Humphrey’s commitment comes on the heels of Alabama securing transfer quarterback Jacob Coker, whose move to the Crimson Tide was rumored since September. With three-year starter AJ McCarron graduating, quarterback had the potential to be a trouble spot, too.

We expected that 2014 would be Alabama’s biggest season of adjustment since 2007, which is when Saban arrived. There still are more trouble spots for Alabama to address, but Saban and his staff already have offered up possible solutions for two of them.

Alabama still needs to address the offensive line, which has lost two good ones in Cyrus Kouandjio and Anthony Steen. Also, the Crimson Tide’s defensive staff still must figure out a better way to defend the hurry-up, no-huddle attacks. They aren’t going away, no matter how much Saban might not like them.

But the Crimson Tide is moving forward, and guys such as Humphrey, Brown and Coker are helping in that direction.

Contact Anniston Star Sports Editor Mark Edwards at medwards@annistonstar.com. Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.
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