When Nick Saban led LSU to the national championship in 2003, his defensive back starters heading into the season had combined for only 10 career starts.
Junior corner Travis Daniels and true freshman free safety LaRon Landry had never started a college game. Junior corner Corey Webster and senior strong safety Jack Hunt had each started 5 games in their careers.
The Tigers went on the win the national championship and lead the nation in total defense (252 ypg). LSU finished sixth in the country with 21 interceptions. On the snap, LaRon Landry often blitzed from depth and quite frankly, scared opponent quarterbacks.
This season, Saban’s starters in the secondary will be sophomore Dee Milliner, juniors Dre Kirkpatrick and Robert Lester, and senior Mark Barron. The four players have combined for 62 career starts, that’s 52 more than LSU’s suffocating unit in 2003.
Kirkpatrick, Lester, and Barron are each projected first-round draft selections in various 2012 mock drafts. Basically, you wouldn’t say there is a lack of talent problem in Tuscaloosa.
LSU’s dominant unit of 2003 played against quarterbacks Eli Manning, David Greene, Jason Campbell, Chris Leak, Brodie Croyle, and Heisman Trophy winner Jason White. This year, the Crimson Tide won’t see as impressive group of quarterbacks. In fact, the three quarterbacks that stand out are Tyler Wilson, John Brantley, and Tyler Bray. Alabama does not play against Aaron Murray or Stephen Garcia.
Since Saban has been the head coach of the Crimson Tide, four defensive backs have been drafted. Kareem Jackson (Round 1, 20 overall), Javier Arenas (Round 2), Marquis Johnson (Round 7), and Rashad Johnson (Round 3) all learned from Kirby Smart and Saban.
Jackson started all 16 games for the Houston Texans as a rookie. Arenas and Rashad Johnson have each started two games in their young NFL careers.
Here is the list of defensive back signees since Saban arrived at Alabama:
2007: Tarence Farmer (Houston, TX), Kareem Jackson (Fork Union, VA), Chris Lett (Pensacola, FL), Michael Ricks (Booneville, MS)
2008: Mark Barron (Mobile, AL), Robby Green (River Ridge, LA), Alonzo Lawrence (Lucedale, MS), Robert Lester (Foley, AL), Wesley Neighbors (Huntsville, AL)
2009: Dre Kirkpatrick (Gadsden, AL), Rod Woodson (Olive Branch, MS)
2010: Deion Belue (Tuscumbia, AL), John Fulton (Manning, SC), Dequan Menzie (Wesson, MS), DeMarcus Milliner (Millbrook, AL), Nick Perry (Prattville, AL), Jarrick Williams (Eight Mile, AL)
2011: Hasean Clinton-Dix (Orlando, FL), Chris Jones (Adamsville, AL)