Alabama football could turn to freshman Malachi Moore for help at star, money positions

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports
Alabama defensive back Malachi Moore (13) going up for a ball during UA's practice on Sept. 5, 2020. Photo by Kent Gidley, UA Athletics.

TUSCALOOSA — Sean Talsma was inheriting a talented defense when he became Hewitt-Trussville High School’s defensive coordinator last year, one that would produce two SEC signees. One of those SEC-bound prospects was Malachi Moore, now a freshman at Alabama.

Moore had played cornerback for the Huskies before Talsma took over. It didn’t take long for Talsma to reach a different conclusion.

“I watched him when I got here, the way he moved, and I said this kid is too valuable to play isolated in the corner position,” he said.

Thus, Talsma moved him to safety. It allowed Moore to be more involved in run-stopping, communication and other aspects of the defense. The move unknowingly primed Moore for a chance at immediate playing time at UA.

Moore has been one of several newcomers who have consistently impressed UA’s coaching staff in preseason practice, doing so in a secondary that is looking for replacements after losing four of last year’s five starters. The Crimson Tide seems to have its answers at cornerback (Patrick Surtain II and Josh Jobe) and at safety (Jordan Battle and Daniel Wright), leaving its star and money positions open to newcomers like Moore.

“Those guys seem to be the kind of guys that have enough maturity as freshmen to stay focused on the things that they need to do so they have a chance to go out there and play,” UA coach Nick Saban said of Moore and fellow freshman defensive back Brian Branch. “We’ve had a few guys be able to do that around here as freshmen, and we’re probably going to have somebody need to do that in the secondary.”

UA had an example of that last year in Battle, who served as the deep safety in the dime package. The year prior, Surtain tallied 37 tackles, seven pass break-ups and an interception as a freshman. Minkah Fitzpatrick and Marlon Humphrey set the gold standard for freshman contributors to UA’s secondary in 2015, when were both in the top three on the team with 11 and eight pass break-ups, respectively.

Moore could be similarly positioned for a breakout season as a freshman. Talsma said Moore was one of the best tacklers on his team last season, further validating the move to safety.

“He’s very physical, so I just believed that this kid needs to be involved in the run game,” he said. “He’s too valuable to use at a corner position.”

Yet, Moore maintains the coverage skills he gained as a corner. When Hewitt-Trussville faced George Pickens – the former Hoover High school wide receiver who’s now a trendy All-SEC pick at Georgia – Moore was tasked to mark him on every snap. Moore even got experience in the pattern-matching concepts that are common in Saban’s defensive scheme, as Talsma deploys them, too.

Simply put, Moore was, “a game changer. He just was.” He may be one for Alabama right away.

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson