- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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You don’t measure the impact of players like Vinnie Sunseri in 40-yard dash times and sheer statistics.
Sunseri’s value to the Alabama defense went much deeper than that.
In fact, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart would tell you that having Sunseri in that secondary was the closest thing to Smart being out there on the field with them.
The No. 1 Crimson Tide will have to play the rest of the season without Sunseri, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last week in the 52-0 win over Arkansas.
Sunseri’s dependability and his instincts, not to mention his leadership, will be what Alabama misses most.
Go back and watch how many times he would get guys lined up, how many times he just happened to be in the right place at the right time and how many times he was there to make a key play.
It’s true that Sunseri wasn’t the best in man coverage, but he also had a way of cleaning up others’ mistakes, and even more importantly, making sure those mistakes didn’t occur in the first place.
The safety position at Alabama has been hit hard this season. Nick Perry was also lost last month with a shoulder injury.
But the Crimson Tide have recruited like gangbusters in the secondary, and there’s no shortage of talent waiting in the wings. Sophomore Landon Collins is one of the more physically impressive athletes on the team. Alabama fans have been waiting for him to break out. Well, this would be a good time after he's shown it in flashes.
Collins, the top safety prospect in America when Alabama signed him two years ago, filled in for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at free safety while Clinton-Dix was suspended. But with Clinton-Dix back, Collins will likely slide over to strong safety to fill Sunseri’s spot.
So the good news is that Alabama has depth in its defensive backfield and some talented young players who are getting better each week. But it’s always unnerving for any coach to lose somebody with Sunseri’s experience and his ability to hold things together in the back end of that defense.