Earl Little II: Alabama's Next 'Star'

The ‘STAR’ role is a pivotal piece of Nick Saban’s Alabama defense. Originating as a response to the spread offense, Saban began substituting his SAM linebacker in favour of another defensive back. The position has developed into a hybrid safety/cornerback role. It takes a special set of skills to truly be dominant as the ‘star’ of the Crimson Tide’s defense.

Photo Credit: Touchdown Alabama

This year the favourite to assume the position is redshirt freshman Earl Little Jr. He will follow in the footsteps of some talented players who have gone on to be successful in the NFL. Dee Milliner, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Brian Branch all had seasons operating at ‘star’. As you can see from the names, the position calls for a good mix of twitchiness, cover ability and physicality.

Little comes into the team with no prior experience. His first season was cut short by injury meaning he was consigned to special team snaps. That said, he has the pedigree to succeed in the SEC. He was a 4-star prospect out of Fort Lauderdale, who had multiple offers from all the major players. He also has NFL bloodlines, with dad Earl Sr. playing eight seasons in the league.

From the limited tape available you can see that Little has the physical skills to hit the ground running in college football. His high school tape below shows his willingness to play press man coverage on the inside or outside. He attacks the run physically and is twitchy enough to hang with smaller, nippier slot receivers. Everything you look for in a slot/safety hybrid, Little has displayed in high school.

As a whole the Alabama secondary has question marks outside of whether Little can step up. They lost Branch, Jordan Battle and DeMarcco Hellams to the NFL. Kool-Aid McKinstry is highly rated but outside of that there will be plenty of upheaval. Malachi Moore, who played ‘star’ last year, is set to move to safety full-time and be paired with freshman Caleb Downs. The additions of transfer Trey Amos and Jaylen Key is further proof Saban is unsure of the depth in this group.

That uncertainty means Little could be shifted even before the season starts. In terms of his future, from a financial sense he will hope that he can show enough to make a move to the outside. At 6’1, he has the size to survive on the outside but his tenacity may force Saban to consider keeping him on the interior. With a raft of top prospects waiting in the wings like Dezz Ricks, Tony Mitchell and Jahlil Hurley, Little will have stiff competition. However, he will get the first crack at solidifying a spot and proving he is the next star of this defense.

Mock Draft

Rory-Joe Daniels

Cfb contributor

formerly writing for the inside zone, rory will be breaking down college tape and keeping you up-to-date with all things CFB for the touchdown. an avid bengals fan, you can also find some of rory’s work at stripehype.com.