Nick Saban ‘confident’ in Trevon Diggs’ improvement at cornerback

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Sam MacDonald

Trevon Diggs made one start, and played a big role on special teams last season.

Cody Estremera

In 2016, Alabama had a stacked secondary, but it lost two key members in the offseason, when Marlon Humphrey was picked in the first round of the NFL draft the Baltimore Ravens and Eddie Jackson graduated and was picked by the Chicago Bears in the third round. 

Coach Nick Saban had two four-star defensive backs coming in, but decided to switch Trevon Diggs from wide receiver to full-time cornerback.

“We’re pleased with the progress that he’s made,” Saban said last spring. “He’s much more natural playing at corner than when we tried to play him at safety. That’s where he played in high school. He’s long, he’s got good toughness and he’s a good tackler. He plays the ball well in the deep part of the field and he’s done a good job of playing man-to-man.”

He made a serious enough impact during last spring and fall camp that he earned the starting cornerback spot against Florida State, but failed to capitalize on the opportunity as he was replaced halfway through the game for Levi Wallace, who started the rest of the season. 

Now, for the second straight season, the Alabama secondary is losing key members. This time, it is the entire starting secondary. Cornerbacks Anthony Averett and Wallace and safety Hootie Jones graduated, while Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison declared for the NFL draft. 

With the loss of those five players, Alabama has two members in the secondary that have starting experience, Diggs and safety Deionte Thompson.

“We have a lot of inexperienced guys there so it’s been a little bit of a work in progress,” Saban said. “I think guys have made improvement. Are we where we need to be? Not really. We have a long way to go. Am I disappointed in the progress? No. I really enjoy the challenge of trying to coach the guys.”

In its latest signing class, the Crimson Tide brought in five defensive backs. Saivion Smith, who ranked as the No. 2 overall JUCO player by the 247Sports composite, is the only other defensive back with major game experience as he played 10 games for LSU in 2016. 

Now that Diggs is entering his second full season as a true defensive back, he is starting to understand the position better. 

“I think he’s a lot more confident this year in terms of understanding what he’s supposed to do,” Saban said. 

Most high school defensive backs have a problem of staring at the quarterback, instead of the player they are defending, which was Diggs’s biggest problem last year, and the area he has made the biggest improvement. 

“Every now and then, he’ll sort of revert back,” Saban said. “As long as he stays focused on that, I’m very confident that he can be a very, very good player for us. “I’m really kind of encouraged by the progress that he’s made.”

For most of spring camp, Diggs has been one of the corners leading drills and practicing as one of the starting corners. 

“Just over the course of spring, he’s been doing a very good job,” Thompson said. “He comes out and communicates. He makes plays, and he’s done a good job. I’m very proud of what he’s done this spring.”