- Alex Scarborough, ESPN Staff Writer
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It's hard to say what happened or how long the impact will last. Alabama's star safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is suspended for violation of team rules, and thus ends the limited amount of information we know at this time.
"When guys get suspended, I never ever say what it's for, so I'm not going there so don't ask me," coach Nick Saban told reporters Wednesday afternoon in Tuscaloosa. "It's the way I've always handled this -- every guy. They do right, they wouldn't be getting suspended. And I don't know for how long this will be so don't ask me that either."
It's Saban's prerogative to keep that kind of information private. Nothing in either the NCAA or SEC rulebook prohibits him from doing so. And really, what matters most is the timetable and it's not terribly interesting either -- at least not for a few weeks.
Losing Clinton-Dix hurts. He's arguably Alabama's most talented defensive back and a possible first-round pick in next year's NFL draft. But considering Alabama's competition in the month of October, it's not the end of the world for the top-ranked Crimson Tide.
Georgia State, Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee don’t have the kind of passing games that strike fear into a secondary. None of the four are ranked in the top 45 nationally in passing efficiency. Kentucky has the highest number of passing yards among that group with 955 on the season, and that number is only good enough for 72nd in the country.
It could be argued, and it wouldn't be a stretch, that the timing couldn't be better. With Clinton-Dix out, Landon Collins and Geno Smith will have time to develop. Collins, in particular, has come on strong on special teams and inside cornerback this season, and could be poised to do even more with a greater number of reps.
With Vinnie Sunseri firmly entrenched as a leader at strong safety, he should be able to shepherd whoever the starter is through the next few weeks.
The big negative in all this is the big picture, though. Alabama has already had enough off-field troubles for one season, the most high profile of which coming back in late February when Eddie Williams, Brent Calloway, Tyler Hayes and D.J. Pettway were all kicked off the team. All told, three players were suspended since then: Trey DePriest and Malcolm Faciane for separate instances of "violation of team rules", and Smith for his arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence. All the suspensions were relatively short-lived, but they raised the question of whether the number of off-field distractions were building toward a larger problem that could ultimately affect the team's championship hopes.
Answering that question was hard to do then and it's hard to do now. Because of the limited information coming from Alabama on its latest suspension of Clinton-Dix, all there is to do is wait.
And waiting, as it relates to the football field, won't hurt that much in the short term.
The month of October doesn't present many challenges and even the first weekend of November affords Alabama a bye to regroup. Then it's No. 10 LSU coming to town. If Clinton-Dix is still out by then, questions will have to be answered and the real concern begins.
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