Lack of experience in secondary forces Dionte Thompson into leadership role

Matthew Speakman

Safety Deionte Thompson waited the entire 2017 season to get his chance. The former four-star recruit sat in a reserve role before senior Hootie Jones went down with a season-ending injury right before the College Football Playoff.

Thompson finally got his chance in the two biggest games of the season, and there was no drop off. He had seven tackles in one pass break up.

Now, he’s using those performances as motivation during spring football.

“It helped me a lot, you know,” Thompson said. “Getting those two games under my belt, being out there with Minkah [Fitzpatrick] and those guys, it really helped me, and it’s going to help me this season.”

While a team never wants injuries to happen, Thompson getting playing time turned out to be important for Alabama. He will be the only player in this year’s secondary with any playing time.

Fitzpatrick and fellow former Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison acted as mentors to Thompson. At media days leading up to the playoff, Harrison said he and Thompson talked almost every day during the season about what they could do to be better players.

Harrison and Fitzpatrick have a wealth of experience as both started all three years at Alabama. Thompson said he still communicates with both players. The two tell him to be in the film room constantly and to be ready for the moment.

Even though he maintains a relationship with the two, Thompson said it’s going to take some time to get used to Harrison and Fitzpatrick not being on the field with him.

“It’s kind of weird, but it’s something that we have to get adjusted to,” Thompson said. “They’re not walking through the meeting doors anymore, so it’s the guys in that room who are going to be ready.”

Harrison and Fitzpatrick along with cornerbacks Anthony Averett, Tony Brown and Levi Wallace all left for the 2018 NFL Draft.

Alabama will not have a single returning starter in the secondary. Thompson will have to become a leader very quickly.

“We don’t have a lot of experience in the secondary right now, but I think those games that he played certainly gave him a level of confidence and experience that will be very helpful, even helping the other guys play better,” coach Nick Saban said.

Right now, Alabama has a lot of young options at each secondary position. 

At practice, Alabama is currently playing Saivion Smith and Trevon Diggs at the two corner positions with Shyheim Carter handling the responsibilities at star. Thompson and Xavier McKinney are playing at safety. Kyriq McDonald is acting as the sixth defensive back in that lineup.

As spring moves forward, Alabama is confident that Thompson can be the leader in the secondary.

“He played almost two full games, two very big games, and did a really, really good job,” Saban said. “I think it helped his confidence a lot. I think he’s a lot more confident in what he’s supposed to do, he has a better understanding. Certainly has a lot of confidence that he can do it because he did play very well for us in those two games. We’re excited about that.”