Jordan Battle, thrust into bigger role in Alabama football's secondary, handling it well
Jordan Battle had time to grow into a full-time starting role. Xavier McKinney’s positional flexibility allowed Battle to play as a deep safety primarily in Alabama’s dime package, giving the then-freshmen the benefit of experience while limiting what he had to prepare for in a given week.
He had no time to grow into a leadership role.
Battle was expected to take on a bigger role in UA’s defense as it replaced both safeties. The void left by those departing safeties also left a void in leadership, one Battle had no choice to fill as UA’s most experienced defensive back outside of Patrick Surtain II. Battle’s teammates and coaches think he handled the duties well in the season opener and look for more Saturday against Texas A&M.
“He's shown a lot of maturity from last year to this year, which is not unusual from freshman to sophomore year,” UA coach Nick Saban said. “I think he's got a good understanding of what we're doing. He's communicating better in the back end getting people on the same page. And I was really pleased with the way he played in the first game.”
Battle was tied for third on the team with six tackles against Missouri.
The on-field aspect of things was one challenge. Battle had to get up to starting speed in the entire defensive schemes, as opposed to just the dime packages, which Saban says he has done.
“I think sometimes when guys know their responsibility increases, their sense of urgency increases a little bit and that's what enables them to make even more progress, which has happened with a lot of guys,” Saban said.
Battle said he has benefited from having Daniel Wright next to him both last season as second-team safeties and this season as starters. While Battle has more game snaps before garbage time, Wright has much more time in the system as a redshirt junior.
Since Wright, “knows just about everything,” Battle said that part of the transition from package player to full-time starter has gone well.
Then there’s the other job Battle has inherited: secondary leader of the defensive backs, particularly for freshman starter Malachi Moore.
“Guys like Shyheim (Carter), Jared Mayden, Xavier McKinney, they all taught me very well,” Battle said. “I was in there, coming in on third down last year, learning and taking notes from them and what they were doing. That’s what made me become a better player back there — and better leader.”
Battle also thinks he’s lucky to have a good set of pupils. Moore’s backup is another freshman, Brian Branch, and UA’s starter at the money position is a sophomore, DeMarcco Hellams.
“Malachi is learning quick on the fly just like every other freshman, so everything is going pretty well right now,” Battle said.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson