Cornerback is one of the most difficult yet important positions on a football field, and the pressure will only increase as offensive football continues to evolve at a rapid rate. Alabama football has had some incredible corners both historically and under Coach Nick Saban.
Last year, the Crimson Tide experienced some struggles at the position. The departed Josh Jobe had injury issues as well as some problems with technique and discipline. He was sometimes beaten for big plays and, more regularly, flagged for pass interference. While he wasn’t terrible, he didn’t quite fill the shoes of 2021 first round pick Patrick Surtain II.
On the opposite side of the field, the Tide secondary experienced more turmoil. Jalyn Armour-Davis was solid but was also frequently injured. True freshman Kool-aid McKinstry and JUCO product Khyree Jackson saw increased roles as a result. Both showed flashes of potential, but they were far from being lockdown corners.
Alabama Football: Three Solid Options
With Jobe and Armour-Davis off to the NFL, McKinstry and Jackson return as the leaders of the position group this season.
They are also joined by LSU transfer Eli Ricks. Ricks was one of the most sought after recruits in the nation in the 2020 class.
He started as a true freshman on the Bayou and showed he could be a star when healthy, recording five career interceptions and returning two for touchdowns.
These three will man the corner positions for Alabama football in 2021. The question is, which two will emerge from fall camp as the starters?
Kool-Aid McKinstry was one of the gems of the 2021 recruiting class, ranking as the top corner in the nation and the best player in the state of Alabama. He played a lot of snaps as a true freshman, and his role will only increase this year. McKinstry recorded an interception against Mercer, his only pick of the season.
He had arguably his most impactful performance in the Iron Bowl classic against Auburn. He got home on a corner blitz, sacking TJ Finley to end a Tiger drive at a crucial moment in the 3rd quarter. He later broke up a pass on a two-point conversion in overtime. It would be Auburn’s last offensive snap, as it put Alabama in position to win the game.
Khyree Jackson didn’t have the standout plays that McKinstry enjoyed. In fact, his most memorable moment was probably when he was beaten for the go-ahead touchdown in the national championship game.
Regardless, Jackson was quietly a solid contributor to the team. He was effective on special teams for much of the season before being thrust into the lineup at corner late in the year.
The trio of Jackson, McKinstry, and Ricks could be highly effective for the Tide in 2021. They are extremely long and athletic as a collective; Kool-aid is the least physically impressive of the group standing at 6’1”.
They will also have the benefit of having incredible talent and experience around them. Alabama football will feature the best pass rush in college football, as well as two seasons senior safeties on the back end. These factors will make life a lot easier for the Tide’s cornerbacks.
While all three of these guys are highly capable, McKinstry and Ricks in particular have the ceilings to be two of the best defensive backs in the country.
Regardless of who starts, Alabama should have some quality depth at this position and will have an NFL-caliber corner as its no. 3 guys on the depth chart.