18 February 2010
Alabama defensive back Robby Green has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. Alabama head coach Nick Saban had the following to say:
There is a situation with Robby and we are currently in the process of determining the facts. To make any kind of announcement on his playing status at this time is completely premature and it is not appropriate to do so until we have a chance to go through due process for Robby and his family.
So what's the situation? Details after the jump.
There will likely not be an official release from the University as to exactly why this suspension has happened. "Violation of team rules" is a wide ranging phrase that typically means, "We aren't going to tell you what happened, so don't bother asking."
The rumors in Tuscaloosa at this point make it sound as though the suspension is due to a failed drug test. If you combine that with the carefully worded statement by Coach Saban, it would appear that the failed test was not an in-house one, but rather one administered by the NCAA. If that is the case, by rule Green will miss the 2010 season. He would have the opportunity to continue to work with the team, but would be ineligible to play. Because he would be ineligible, he would not be allowed to use the year as a redshirt; meaning he would be a senior when he was eligible to return to the field in 2011.
That's all still speculation at this point, but all reliable sources point towards this being the situation. So what now for the Tide secondary?
If you'll recall, the Bama secondary is extremely thin at the moment, with six of the top nine guys in the secondary in 2009 not with the team any more. This suspension would make that seven of the top nine. Green looked to be the likely starter at safety in 2009 before losing the starting job late in fall camp to Mark Barron. With the Tide's other safety, Justin Woodall, having completed his career, Green looked to be the presumptive starter in 2010.
With Green apparently out of the picture, the Bama coaches will have to look elsewhere to find a safety. That impacts not only the lineup in the base 3-4 defense, but also in the nickel and dime packages where the Tide uses extra defensive backs.
The two most likely candidates to take over Green's playing time at this point are Robert Lester and Rod Woodson. They are the two most likely candidates simply because they are the only two scholarship safeties on the team aside from Barron.
Robert Lester will be a redshirt sophomore who saw his first game action in 2009. He played mostly on special teams, but did see action in the defensive backfield in several of the Tide's blowout wins. He recorded 8 tackles on the season.
Rod Woodson will be a true sophomore who played as a true freshman in 2009. Almost all of his time came on special teams, though he also saw limited action in the defensive backfield in blowout wins. He recorded 7 tackles on the season.
Another possibility at the safety position is Wesley Neighbors. He was a part of the 2008 signing class, though it is believed by most that he is actually taking advantage of the Bryant Scholarship. If he plays in 2010, he will count towards the 85 scholarship limit, but because he did not play during his first two years on campus, he will not have to count towards the 25 limit in 2008.
It is also possible that the coaching staff could look to move someone from the corner position to fill the need. Green got all of his playing time at corner in 2008 before making the move to safety in the spring of 2009. The problem there, though, is that the Tide is incredibly thin at corner. Just five scholarship players will work at that position this spring.
Redshirt sophomore B.J. Scott would be the most likely of them to make the move, as many people have seen him as more of a safety type. He's the likely candidate to play the star position in the nickel, which is a hybrid corner/safety position, so I would guess that he would get the first look at safety if the staff decided to go this route.
Early enrollee DeMarcus Milliner projects at corner, though he did play safety in high school. It is thought by many talent evaluators that he has huge upside at the corner position, but if he is the most game ready safety available to the staff, then it would make sense that he would start his career at safety.
The Tide will have two incoming freshman at the safety position who will join the team this summer in Nick Perry and Jarrick Williams. I would imagine that the coaching staff would rather have this situation figured out before either of those guys step on to campus, though.
So what we'll be watching for this spring is how quickly either Lester or Woodson are able to claim the position. If they struggle, then the staff will have to look elsewhere. Whether or not a player like B.J. Scott would even be available to make the move will like depend on how secure the staff feels the corner position is.
With Dre Kirkpatrick, Phelon Jones, and Scott the only returning players at the position, Bama will also be looking at early enrollees Milliner and John Fulton to fill the two true corner positions. If those spots are locked down early, then it would be possible for either Scott or Milliner to be free to get a look at safety.
For the past two season we have seen Javier Arenas slide from an outside corner spot into the star position in the nickel, with a corner coming into take his spot outside. This season we might see one of the starting safeties (especially if it ends up being Scott) slide inside to the star, with another safety joining the mix.
This will certainly be a big challenge for the Bama staff this spring. Thankfully in Nick Saban and Kirby Smart the Tide has two of the best (if not THE best) secondary coaches in the nation. There had been some thought that new addition to the coaching staff Jeremy Pruitt might coach defensive backs, freeing up Smart to work with different positions. This situation could certainly impact that.
Having said all of this, it is possible that Green could still be a part of the team in 2010. Indefinite suspensions have lasted short amounts of time in the past, so it might be a bit premature to assume that he is definitely out for 2010. We'll keep you updated on this situation as more facts become available.
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