Communication key to Carter’s leadership


CW/ Hannah Saad

Cody Estremera, Sports Editor

With Alabama’s lineage, playing defensive back comes with a lot of expectations, especially in the nickel corner spot: Star. With last year’s Star, Minkah Fitzpatrick, getting drafted in the top 10 of the NFL Draft, the spot came with a lot of expectations, but Shyheim Carter was ready for that pressure.

Cornerbacks at Star are playing mainly man-to-man on the opposing team’s shiftiest receiver. When playing in zone, the Star must jam the receiver (make contact with the receiver at the line of scrimmage).

“I came in playing Star, so I started learning since I got here [Alabama],” Carter said. “It’s kind of a thing that you admire.”

After losing players to graduation and the NFL Draft, Alabama’s defense needed leaders in the secondary. The base defense at the start of the season consisted of Saivion Smith, a transfer, Xavier McKinney and Trevon Diggs, who played mostly in mop-up duty the previous season, and Deionte Thompson, who started the last two games of the season.

With the amount of turnovers, Alabama’s defense struggled early in the year at communication, and it showed at the start of the year. In Alabama’s win against Louisville, the Cardinals finished the game with seven passing plays that were longer than 15 yards, a couple of which were when receivers were wide open down field.

“If you see a guy running wide open and nobody around them, that means somebody messed up, because we don’t have any defenses where a guy doesn’t get covered,” coach Nick Saban said after the win.

The communication continued to develop throughout the season, reaching its peak by the end of the regular season.

“Shyheim has been an essential part of our success,” defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi said. “He’s taken a lot of pride in communication, lining individuals up, not just doing his job, being a dominate tore in that aspect, as far as not just approaching every practice, every meeting the same way, but also having a positive influence upon his teammates as well.”

Thompson was one of the main signal callers, but Carter was big on relaying plays to the other players on the field, especially the other cornerbacks.

“Getting the signals helped me a lot,” freshman cornerback Patrick Surtain said. “Just knowing that if I don’t get the call, then he’ll always be there.”

Besides being a leader in communication, Carter was one of Alabama’s most consistent defensive backs, finishing with 44 tackles and two interceptions, both of which were returned for touchdowns, but his biggest contribution was helping the freshmen defensive backs.

Alabama brought in five cornerbacks in its 2017 recruiting class, meaning there was a lot of talent but little experience.

“I try to help them learn the ropes, get them to learn the playbook,” Carter said. “When I was a freshman, the older guys did that for me, so I want to pay homage back.”