Saban: UAB transfer Jaylen Key is ‘instinctive,’ adds versatility to Tide secondary

Published Aug. 03, 2023, 6:27 p.m.
By Nick Alvarez |
Amid an offseason spent discussing the future of Alabama’s quarterback room or its set of pass rushers, it’s almost easy to forget that among the 10 starters the Tide has to replace, a few important spots are open in the secondary.
Through the 2023 recruiting cycle and spring transfer window, Alabama brought in seven new defensive backs. Five of those are freshmen and while Georgia five-star Caleb Downs worked his way into a conversation for playing time, the unit is likely to rely on the quick adjustments of two transfers: UAB’s Jaylen Key and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Trey Amos.
Speaking to the media after the Tide’s first practice of fall camp, Saban broke down Key’s ability:
“Jaylen is learning the system, but he is an instinctive player. He does have good size. I think he can play in the deep part of the field, and I think he can play in the box. I think that he’s learning, but he’s got a great attitude and he’s smart. And I think the experience that he has, because he has played before and played some games at this level in the SEC, will really help him develop. I think he’s gonna be a guy that can really help us and contribute. I’m not sure exactly what role yet.”
Key recorded 60 tackles a year ago for the Blazers with three interceptions and a sack. His best game was on Nov. 19 at LSU when he made 12 stops, including nine solo tackles and one for a loss.
What’s the biggest challenge for Alabama football’s JuCo transfers?
Saban noted the team “needed” versatility in the room. Last year, roles were clearly defined with Kool-Aid McKinstry and Terrion Arnold settling at boundary corners and DeMarcco Hellams, Jordan Battle and Malachi Moore at safety. The unit performed well — Hellams and Battle were drafted, McKinstry is a projected first-rounder — but there are new faces to slot in this fall, specifically at safety.
Downs, Kristian Story and Earl Little Jr. each got notable reps during A-Day and have a chance to be figured in the rotation. Amos posted a team-high eight pass breakups at cornerback a year ago for the Rajin’ Cajuns.
While a depth chart shouldn’t be expected anytime soon, Saban did give a hint as to what they’ll look for ahead of the Sept. 2 opener against Middle Tennessee State.
“I like the two guys that we were able to add,” Saban said. " ... We’re moving a lot of guys around to different positions, but we’re trying to find the best five guys to sort of play the best spots in the back end.”

Latest Player Notes

If that really was Drake Maye’s last game in Chapel Hill, it provided a fitting full-circle ending

UPDATED NOVEMBER 13, 2023 2:49 PMHere was Drake Maye in the middle of it all late Saturday night, in the middle of the kind ...

Shedeur Sanders closing in on CU Buffs single-season records through pain of all the sacks and hits

PUBLISHED November 13, 2023 at 12:38 p.m. | UPDATED: November 13, 2023 at 12:40 p.m.BOULDER — Shedeur Sanders is closing ...

Tenth Anniversary of Kick Six: Inside video, "Official" look at Historic Iron Bowl Shocker

Published Nov. 13, 2023, 6:00 a.m.By Creg Stephenson See and hear history behind Kick Six (excuse the ads, but this is ...

Goodman: Jimbo Fisher is out and Nick Saban wins again

Updated: Nov. 13, 2023, 10:00 a.m.|By Joseph GoodmanJimbo Fisher is out at Texas A&M, which goes to show that even when a ...

Huard on Huskies: Why a win over No. 10 Oregon St would be huge

The No. 5 UW Huskies’ quest to make the College Football Playoff went through the two-time defending Pac-12 champions on ...

USC’s loss to Oregon exposes clear flaws in program-building up front

EUGENE, Ore. — In January, Lincoln Riley was on the sidelines at SoFi for the College Football Playoff championship game, ...

Two years after winning school-record 12 games, Brady Hoke out as Aztecs football coach

Brady Hoke is out as San Diego State’s football coach.SDSU released a statement Monday morning saying that Hoke is retiring, ...

Oregon’s Bo Nix named Pac-12 offensive player of the week for third time in 2023

Oregon’s Bo Nix earned his third weekly honor from the Pac-12.Nix, who went 23 of 31 for a season-high 412 yards with four ...

Oregon Ducks’ head coach Dan Lanning mentioned as a leading candidate for Texas A&M job

Oregon Ducks head coach Dan Lanning has been mentioned as a leading candidate to replace Jimbo Fisher as coach of the Texas ...

After ‘tough day,’ Boise State AD searches for a football coach; defensive analyst promoted

Boise State athletic director Jeramiah Dickey was on the job for less than a week the last time he began a search for a football ...
See More Player Notes