Jordan Battle is a valuable defender Alabama football's fortunate to have back. Here's why.

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama football safety Jordan Battle didn’t have to stay for his senior season. 

He could have left after his junior year. He had put together enough highlights to be a high-round 2022 NFL Draft pick.

ESPN draft analyst Matt Miller was discussing other prospects at the Senior Bowl in February with The Tuscaloosa News. Then he brought up Battle’s name, unprompted.

“Jordan Battle didn’t come out, and I really liked him,” Miller said. "That’s always the surprising stuff with (coach Nick) Saban. The other linebacker (Henry To’oTo’o) as well and Jordan Battle go back to school. Had they come out, we would have a couple more Bama guys we’re raving about.”

Instead, Battle is back and it will be his third season as a starter. He has a chance not only to improve his draft stock but also get his degree in December and win a College Football Playoff championship.

“That’s just something that goes with the Bama standard, coming to Bama,” Battle said during spring practice. “That’s what’s instilled in you. You want to win, and if you don’t win, you’re still hungry. You’re hungry for more. I think that’s the main thing of the decision to come back for us individually.”

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Edge defender Will Anderson Jr. is usually the first member of the defense discussed, and rightfully so. He might have won the Heisman Trophy had it been not so much an offensive award this century. Anderson finished with 34.5 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks in 2021.

Battle should also be included in conversations about the most important pieces on the defense. Look no farther than his numbers.

He was fourth in tackles (84) and tied for first in interceptions (three), but more specific statistics that Pro Football Focus tracks show just how valuable Battle is to the defense.

Tackling

At safety, Battle’s ability to be a reliable tackler was crucial on the back end of the defense.

Whether it’s making a tackle to stop a runner at the line of scrimmage or chasing someone down in the open field, Battle has been a valuable playmaker for defensive coordinator Pete Golding.

For example, on second-and-17 in the third quarter of the Iron Bowl, Auburn’s Jarquez Hunter took a flat pass and knifed through the defense. Battle chased him down and tackled him from behind as Hunter was sprinting toward the end zone.

Battle missed only 8.5% of his tackle attempts this past season, per PFF. That ranked 17th among Alabama defenders, one of the lowest of any of the regulars in the starting lineup.

Pass defense

Alabama defensive back Jordan Battle (9) celebrates his interception of a Mississippi State pass during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Sure, Battle's three interceptions and two returned for touchdowns certainly reflect well on his playmaking ability. He had two against Mississippi State and the well-known Air Raid offense. His other return for a TD was  in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia. Those, however, are only a few plays over his 964 snaps.

Battle was targeted 33 times in 2021, allowing 19 receptions. That's an allowed catch-rate of 57.6%.

That ranked fourth lowest among Alabama players with at least 100 snaps and was the best among defenders who started the season.  

Here’s one more stat for Battle and it’s a good sign for his chances in the NFL. The NFL passer rating registered against him was 57.6, per PFF.

Only one teammate had a lower number: Jalyn Armour-Davis at 52.3.

Nick Kelly covers Alabama football and men's basketball for The Tuscaloosa News, part of the USA TODAY Network. Reach him at nkelly@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly