When the Crimson Tide take the field in 2022, they will be on a mission to re-stake their claim to the College Football Playoff national championship trophy after narrowly missing their chance to repeat in 2021 with a loss to Georgia in the title game.
The secondary is returning some studs and gaining some valuable experience at the same time, which should lead to Alabama having one of their better defensive secondaries in recent years. The addition of Eli Ricks to the defensive backfield will certainly bolster the ranks of a secondary that definitely struggled at times throughout the 2021 season.
After the departures of Jalyn Armour-Davis (draft), Josh Jobe(draft) and Marcus Banks (transfer), there are some holes that need to be filled, but the spots should be filled by very capable athletes that understand their assignments.
Let’s preview every player in the Alabama secondary, starting with my predicted starters for the 2022 season.
DeMarrco Hellams (FS)
Sep 25, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Christian Harris (8) deflects a pass that is intercepted by defensive back DeMarcco Hellams (2) against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles during the first half at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports
DeMarrco Hellams, along with Josh Jobe, ensures that both safeties from the 2021 Crimson Tide defense return for the upcoming 2022 season.
Hellams was one of three Alabama players that finished the 2021 season with three interceptions. He also ended up tied at second for the most solo tackles on the defense during the 2021 season, following none other than Will Anderson Jr on the box score. He ended the season with 76 total tackles, good enough for fourth on the team.
Hellams returns for his senior year, giving the Tide a ton of experience on his side of the field at the safety spot.
Jordan Battle (SS)
MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA – JANUARY 11: Jordan Battle #9 of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks on during the second quarter of the College Football Playoff National Championship game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Hard Rock Stadium on January 11, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Jordan Battle’s return for his senior season guarantees that both safety positions are filled by seniors with significant game-time experience.
Battle also tallied three interceptions during the 2021 season, even managing to take two of them to the house for six and totaling 111 yards in interception returns.
He finished the season with 74 total tackles on the year, 43 being solo takedowns.
Eli Ricks (CB1)
LSU defensive back Eli Ricks (1) runs with the ball after making an interception against Florida during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, in Gainesville, Fla. (Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun via AP)
The transfer of Eli Ricks provides the Tide with some much-needed experience at the corner position. Both of Alabama’s corners from 2021 are departing the Capstone for the NFL. Armour-Davis got one year’s worth of work as a starter in Nick Saban’s defense and Josh Jobe is forgoing a potential fifth-year (due to Covid) for the NFL.
Ricks ranked eighth in the NCAA in interceptions during the 2020 season, and second in interception touchdowns that same year. During the 2021 season, Ricks missed much of the season after suffering a shoulder injury in the middle of October.
Kool-Aid McKinstry (CB2)
Alabama defensive back Kool-Aid McKinstry (1) celebrates a sack on Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Ga’Quincy “Kool-Aid” McKinstry got thrust into some significant playing time following injuries late in the year and started in six of the Tide’s 15 games on the season and each of its last four games.
He snagged one interception and even got to the quarterback once for a sack during the 2021 season.
He is expected to start on the other side of incoming LSU transfer Eli Ricks, but that is subject to change at any time.
Malachi Moore (STAR)
Sep 18, 2021; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Malachi Moore (13) against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
In Alabama’s defensive scheme, the man at the Star position is a hybrid safety that could take on various roles on the field. He can line up close to the line of scrimmage or deep in the defensive backfield.
Malachi Moore and Brian Branch each got time here last season, with Moore seeing the majority of the action for two-thirds of the season, with Branch filling in primarily toward the latter third.
Moore pulled down an interception last season and contributed otherwise with 15 stops, 10 of which being solo tackles.
Brian Branch (STAR)
Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Brian Branch (14) against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Branch and Malachi Moore will likely each see time at the star position this upcoming season. Both are too athletic to be on the bench for long periods of time, and Branch is capable of causing issues for coverage opponents.
Contact/Follow us @RollTideWire on Twitter, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Alabama news, notes, and opinion. You can also follow Layne Gerbig on Twitter @LayneG_29.