Four players have started opposite Deion Belue: John Fulton, Bradley Sylve, Cyrus Jones and true freshman Eddie Jackson. True freshman Maurice Smith also has played significant snaps.
Sylve and Jones are competing to start in the Crimson Tide’s next game against LSU on Nov. 9 in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Problem is, Sylve is still trying to get healthy after suffering a high ankle sprain against Arkansas.
“When Bradley gets back, we’ll evaluate how he is and see who’s playing the best and who we think will give us the best chance to play well in the next game,” Saban said. “Hopefully, by the end of the week, Bradley will be able to go and be 100 percent and we’ll be able to start making that evaluation.”
Jones, a former wide receiver, started his first career game against Tennessee. Jones is tied for the team lead with two interceptions while mostly playing as a reserve until this past Saturday.
Sylve, a third-year sophomore, started for Belue against Colorado State and at the second cornerback spot against Kentucky and Arkansas. He went down against Arkansas and was replaced by Jones, who made his second interception.
Linebacker C.J. Mosley said both guys are working hard every day.
“One thing, they’re getting coached by Coach Saban every day, so that’s a start,” Mosley said. “They’re rotating plays in each game. I mean, they’ve just got to keep working at it. They can’t get discouraged because at the end of the day, we’ve all got each other’s back and we’ve all got to be ready to play with whichever one goes in and whoever comes out.”
Mosley noted that it will be important to move onto the next play as a young defender.
“Mainly, we’re just trying to make them keep a good mindset,” Mosley said. “You know, sometimes, the younger guys get down, especially when the coach is getting on them, they keep messing up. So it’s really the older guys’ job just to make sure they have the right mindset and let them know, hey, got to do the next play. You really have to because especially in the game, you give up a big play you can’t reminisce on that play. You got to go to the next one.”
Saban didn’t mention Jackson or Smith as potential starters. During his radio show last week, Saban implied they may be struggling to fully grasp the Tide’s defensive schemes and that it’s a work in progress getting them to form the right habits necessary to play winning football.
“The thing about the freshmen that I think people have a hard time understanding -- I don’t even think the freshmen understand -- none of these guys have (an understanding of) what it takes from an intensity standpoint, a mental focus standpoint, week in and week out to prepare for a game and be able to go out and execute in a game,” Saban said. “I call it casual. They’re so casual about how they go about things because they don’t know any better. It’s not because they want to be or intend to be, but they’ve just never done it any other way.”