Tide rolls into season with top secondary

Here's a quick look at the nation's best secondary units.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

height="80" align="left" border="0">This one is a no-brainer. With all four starters returning from the nation's top pass defense last season, how can the Crimson Tide's secondary not rank as the best of its kind heading into the 2005 season?

FS Roman Harper is the quarterback of the group. An All-SEC performer, Harper is aggressive versus the run (77 tackles in 2004) and efficient against the pass (four passes broken up and three INTs in 2004). Anthony Madison is the Tide's most complete cover corner. The senior has great quickness, instincts and experience, which he used to notch four interceptions and 10 broken up passes last season.

Surrounded by three seniors, Ramzee Robinson is the lone junior of the group but his emergence as a solid starting left cornerback last season allowed Charlie Peprah to move to strong safety, which was a position of weakness prior to the transition. Peprah is only 193 pounds and he is far from a run enforcer, but he is a smart player and sound tackler who should only improve with a full year of experience at the position under his belt. Peprah's coverage ability also gives the unit some flexibility versus spread offenses. Sophomore CB Simeon Castille and junior DS Jeffrey Dukes are talented players who give the unit good depth.

2. Miami Hurricanes

height="80" align="left" border="0">The unit will miss CB Antrel Rolle's versatility and toughness but it won't miss his inconsistency in coverage. Even without him, the Hurricane's secondary should improve in 2005. For starters, the unit is much more experienced and deep at the safety position. There are essentially three starters at safety with Brandon Meriweather, Anthony Reddick and Greg Threat. Meriweather was limited by a shoulder injury but he should emerge as the most complete starter of the group this fall, as he is a versatile player who can play both free and strong safety. Threat led the team with 139 total tackles last season but he is expected to take a backseat to Reddick, who experienced a breakout freshman season with 73 tackles in 2004. Reddick is the best athlete of the group and should wind up starting at the FS position. On some obvious running downs, the team could go with Meriweather and Threat in the game at the same time. Otherwise, look for Threat to play a sub-package role (possibly even as a nickel linebacker) behind starters Meriweather and Reddick.