Anthony Averett was the surprise of last season’s fall camp, when the New Jersey native took control of one of the starting cornerback jobs and held it down throughout the season.

Some scouting services, such as Pro Football Focus, graded Averett as Alabama’s best corner last season. An article listed him as the “top cornerback to watch” this season.

Accolades are nice recognition, but Averett is focused on playing his role this season. He and Minkah Fitzpatrick, also from New Jersey, head up the secondary. An argument can be made that Alabama’s top two defensive backs hail from the Garden State, although I’m sure Ronnie Harrison would have to be factored in as well.

Heading into his second season as a starter, Averett said the biggest thing he’s improved on since last year isn’t a single technique or anything on the field. It’s in his demeanor.

“I feel like I’m just more comfortable,” he said. “I see more, I’m more experienced, what else … more footwork. I’m finally starting to get, like, healthy now.”

Health was a concern a season ago. He had offseason surgery to repair a hernia injury. He’s anxious to see that he does this season fully healthy.

“I mean, it limited me to a certain extent,” Averett said. “There were a couple things I couldn’t really do. But I feel like this year I’ll be fast, full-speed, and we’ll see what happens.”

Those rankings about Averett’s ability as corner, though not all that important, have given the redshirt senior more confidence. UA coach Nick Saban calls it positive self-gratification.

Averett feels he’s a lock-down corner.

“I’m confident about that,” he said. “I’m pretty sure that I definitely did my job and I really don’t focus on that. I just try to do my job. … Yeah, I’ve seen (those reports). I see all those things. It’s a blessing to even be a part of that or be mentioned by name when it comes to that, but I’m just focused on the team, getting better and having even a better year this year.”

He knows his status now, too, knows that he’ll be expected to lead. The experience he gained a season ago benefited him greatly in that regard.

“It makes a big difference. Last year, Eddie (Jackson), he was pretty much the guy, among the older guys. This year it’s me and Minkah and all the seniors, Tony (Brown). All the seniors this year, it makes a big difference. It creates leadership. We need leadership, in the secondary or any type of defense, period. It makes a big difference.”

Reach Aaron Suttles at or at 205-722-0229.