15 January 2010
Two pieces of information came out of Tuscaloosa today; one good and one bad.
As expected cornerback Kareem Jackson has declared himself eligible for the NFL Draft.
As some had speculated, Director of Player Personnel Jeremey was promoted to fill the defensive coach position vacated by James Willis.
Jackson is a considerably bigger loss than most Tide fans realize. Javier Arenas got all of the attention this year, and earned the All-American honors. But it was Jackson who routinely lined up opposite the opponent's best receiver. In the BCS Championship Game Texas was able to finally have success with their star receiver Jordan Shipley once they managed to get him matched up with someone other than Jackson.
Nick Saban doesn't label his corners "right" and "left" anywhere but on the depth chart. Instead he calls his corners "boundary" and "field". The "boundary" corner takes the receiver on the short side of the field, where he is able to use the out of bounds area as an extra defender, making his job easier. The "field" corner doesn't have that luxury, and he has to cover the receiver on the wide side of the field. Kareem Jackson has been Bama's "field" corner for the past two seasons, and has started all but one game during his three year career at Alabama.
His numbers don't jump off of the page - 155 tackes and five interceptions - but that is mostly due to the fact that teams simply didn't throw his way very often. Yes, he occasionally got beaten... all corners get beaten from time to time. But Jackson's ability to limit opponent's best receiver was a huge reason that Bama finished in the top 20 in the nation in pass defense during each of the past two years, and was a huge part of the reason Bama finished #2 in that category in 2009.
His loss is compounded by the fact that Bama also loses both of the teams other two starting corners - boundary corner Marquis Johnson, and All-American nickel "star" Javier Arenas. Bama also loses starting safety Justin Woodall, as well as reserves Chris Rogers, Ali Sharrief, and Tyrone King.
While he has three days to change his mind, don't expect to see to it happen. He started his career at prep school, so this past season was his fourth out of high school. While he is only projected to be drafted somewhere between the third and fifth round, the reality is that he isn't likely to see that status climb before next year. While he could certainly improve on his technique with another year, it is unlikely that he could grow taller or get faster - and those are the two things that will keep him from being a first round pick.
His 29 career passes broken up rank 4th on Bama's all-time list. With his departure, combined with the departure of Rolando McClain, Alabama's returning leader in career tackles is Mark Barron with 90.
Kareem will be missed, much more so than most fans realize. He won't go down on anyone's list of great defensive backs in Bama history the way that McClain will at linebacker. But he very well might make a list of most under-appreciated players, though that list is typically going to always be crowded at the defensive back position.
Good luck to Kareem Jackson, and Roll Tide!
The promotion of Jeremy Pruitt to on-field coach shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. He was a strong candidate to fill one of the vacant positions last year, and it looks as though the only thing that kept that from happening were phone calls by Tommy Tuberville and Will Muschamp singing the praises and availability of James Willis. Pruitt has been on Saban's support staff since 2007 and has been poised to move up since joining.
If the name sounds familiar to you, beyond the fact that he's been on the staff, there are two main reasons:
1) He played at Alabama under Gene Stallings in 1995 and 1996. He was a reserve defensive back who transferred in from Middle Tennessee State.
2) He was the defensive coordinator for Hoover High School during their stint on reailty television with MTV's "Two-A-Days".
It is unclear at this time exactly what position Pruitt will work with. The vast majority of his experience is with defensive backs, and Bama's open spot is at the inside linebackers position. He could, theoretically, take that spot, as most coaches tend to be versatile. Sal Sunseri could also take over coaching all of the linebackers, and Pruitt could be an extra defensive backs coach (joining Kirby Smart and Nick Saban). Considering Alabama will be replacing everyone in the secondary except for Mark Barron, that could be a real possibility. We could also see Kirby Smart move around a bit more, and Pruitt take over coaching the defensive backs.
Coach Saban waited until after Sunseri and Willis had a few practices under their belts before he announced what their exact duties would be. Don't be surprised if we don't know on Pruitt until after a couple of spring practices.
Pruitt is a graduate of the University of Alabama, and this is his first on the field coaching job at the college level.
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