September 29, 2007

Secondary shakeup

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Alabama defensive back Marquis Johnson got his first defensive action of the season Saturday as the Crimson Tide shuffled its lineup in the secondary for the first time this season.

Absent from the lineup was Lionel Mitchell, although Alabama coach Nick Saban said Kareem Jackson, who had previously played more in the Tide's nickel package, replaced Mitchell at right cornerback.

"Kareem Jackson has been playing very well, so Kareem was actually put in his place. Lionel's still a good player. We need to get a little better execution at the corner positon," Saban said. "... We have been giving up plays at right corner. There was a play against Western Carolina, there was a play against Arkansas, the play last week in overtime, and that's an area where we need to make some improvements."

Johnson, a native of Sarasota, Fla., played cornerback when Simeon Castille moved to the nickel position. He finished with one solo tackle and one pass breakup, although he missed a tackle on De'Cody Fagg's 70-yard touchdown catch that helped the Seminoles put the game out of reach.

Until Saturday, Johnson's game action had been limited to special teams play, but Saturday the former Booker High standout was in the defensive lineup right from the first quarter. Asked if he was surprised Mitchell did not play, Castille said he was.

"I was kind of surprised but we've got faith in the guys that we put out there," said Castille. "Marquis and Kareem and Sharrief when we go in dime, they practice hard every week and they were prepared."

The Crimson Tide secondary will have its hands full next week against one of the nation's most prolific passing offenses in the Houston Cougars.

"We want to get better performance from the position regardless of who's playing," said Saban.

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