Thursday, December 6, 2012
Tracking the Tide: Dee Milliner
By Alex Scarborough
Editor’s note: Each day between now and Alabama's date with Notre Dame in the BCS national championship, we will review the season for a key Crimson Tide player and attempt to project what’s next for him. Today we’ll look at cornerback Dee Milliner.
Dee Milliner emerged as one of the nation's best players this season.
Role in 2012: The former nickel back stepped in for Dre Kirkpatrick in a big way, becoming Alabama's best and most reliable defensive back from Day 1.
The good: Milliner wasted no time introducing himself to the college football world, owning Denard Robinson and the Michigan offense in the season opener. The junior broke up four passes and intercepted another in Arlington, Texas. From then on, he has been arguably the best cornerback in the country, a complete player with the ability to cover as well as lend a hand in run support. He's currently tied for fourth in the country in passes defended, and that's with quarterbacks generally looking away from his side of the field.
The bad: The 6-foot-1, 199-pound native of Millbrook, Ala., has not had a perfect season. No cornerback ever does. As Nick Saban put it, "Every corner I've coached, every corner I knew always got beat." Missed assignments and botched coverage have been few and far between for Milliner, who continually found a way to fill up a box score. His four tackles for loss is tied for seventh-most on the team. He's blocked a kick, forced a fumble and come up with 1.5 sacks.
Crystal ball: It's hard to imagine Milliner not opting to turn pro after this season. ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both have him ranked in the top 15 prospects available. Given Saban's attitude toward early entries to the draft -- it basically boils down to "If you're projected to be a first-round pick, then go. If not, let me get you there." -- it seems like a sure-fire bet we'll be seeing Milliner play his last downs for the Crimson Tide on Jan. 7 against Notre Dame. He'll likely go up against the Irish's best receiver in T.J. Jones. Jones, who comes in at 5-foot-11, has 43 catches for 559 yards and four touchdowns this season.