Defense in flux after injury, departure

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama secondary looked a lot different only a few days ago.

Coach Nick Saban announced on Saturday afternoon that cornerback Jarrick Williams will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. The news comes on the heels of fellow cornerback Travell Dixon deciding to leave the program on Friday for family and personal reasons.

"Jarrick was a core special teams player for us," Saban said following Saturday's scrimmage. "[He was] doing as good a job because he has a better understanding now of getting better and being able to execute in the secondary.

"[He] was probably going to be a role player and a solid backup there for us."

While the core of the secondary remains intact, the loss of two key reserves hurts a unit already undergoing a serious facelift this offseason. Three-quarters of the secondary must be replaced from a year ago, and only a handful of experienced players are in position to take the reins.

"We're going to have some young guys in the secondary who are going to have to be backup players and they're probably going to have to have some roles," Saban explained.

Two freshmen Saban singled out as possibilities were Landon Collins, the No. 1 safety in the 2012 class according to ESPN, and Geno Smith, who came in as the No. 2 cornerback in the ESPN 150.

Saban added that true freshman wide receiver Eddie Williams will make the move from wide receiver to safety a permanent one. The former two-way standout in high school practiced in the secondary on Friday morning and the move was made official when the seriousness of Jarrick's injury became clear.

The 6-foot-3, 204-pound athlete was coming on at receiver before the move to defense. Cornerback Dee Milliner and junior receiver Kevin Norwood praised his speed and soft hands catching the football.

"Eddie is one of the bigger, physical receivers," Milliner explained earlier in the week. "Somebody we could use."

Added Norwood: "He's quick, he's explosive, got great hands."

The coaching staff hopes those skills will translate well to the defense.

"One thing he showed at receiver, he’s big, very physical," Saban said. "Hopefully, he’ll be able to add some range. The big thing is being a good tackler, and can he play man-to-man? But I think he’s going to have to get comfortable, sort of, learning the system. That might take a little while but we’re going to work hard to develop him."

Despite seeing Eddie play safety in practice and a scrimmage, Saban wouldn't offer an assessment of his play just yet. It's too soon to make those judgements, he said.

"We’re trying to tell him what to do every play," Saban said. "It’s really not fair to make any kind of evaluation because he doesn’t even know how to do this stuff. We’re telling him what to do, but we haven’t really taught him how to do it or why it’s important to do it that way."

The secondary isn't the only position Saban is looking at closely. Outside linebacker has been a point of interest as well.

Both Adrian Hubbard, who suffered a mild sprain to his elbow during the scrimmage, and Xzavier Dickson have caught Saban's eye, as have Jonathan Atchinson and Tana Patrick. Among the freshman, Saban noted that Dillon Lee was working with outside linebackers and he'd soon have to make a decision on whether or not Reggie Ragland will continue to try his hand at both the inside and outside linebacker positions.

Either way, there are plenty of options to choose from.

"We’ve got lots of guys at those positions -- and a couple other young players that have some ability," Saban said. "So there’s a lot of guys there and they all have some potential. It’s who can go in there and get the job done on a consistent basis by doing their job. That’s the big thing."