TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama's secondary is coming off an atypical season when youth, suspensions and injuries collided with a Southeastern Conference loaded with potent passers and receivers.
Now, the Crimson Tide unit that has been a training ground for NFL prospects is bolstered by a familiar position coach and two of the nation's top cornerback recruits.
"I know those were some painful times that we all had to go through," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "But I think that those guys are more confident and I think they can be more consistent this year.
"I think we have the addition of a few young guys that are really talented that are going to be beneficial as well. Last year, we had the most inexperienced group of people in the secondary that we have ever had in terms of playing their position."
Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is back in charge of the secondary with Greg Brown leaving for Louisville after one season, and freshmen Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey join the fold.
Tony Brown went through spring practice and is contending for a starting job along with Bradley Sylve and Cyrus Jones, who was adjusting to the transition from receiver last season.
Alabama was still second in the SEC in pass defense and 11th nationally, but the 180.3 yards per game was the most Alabama had allowed since 2008. The cornerback spot opposite Deion Belue, who was bothered by a nagging turf toe injury, was virtually a revolving door of starters.
The cornerbacks also had to face receivers such as first-round draft picks Mike Evans of Texas A&M and LSU's Odell Beckham.
Freshmen Eddie Jackson, who's still recovering from spring knee surgery, and Maurice Smith both started games.
Smart is hoping that trial by fire leads to growth.
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