Lost: Darrelle Revis*, Reggie Carter
Returning: Kennard Cox*, Aaron Berry, Jovani Chappel, Ricky Gary, Lowell Robinson
Newcomers: Buddy Jackson, Sherod Murdock, Aaron Smith
Breakdown: Replacing Revis, a likely first-round draft choice, wasn’t expected to be easy but Berry filled in admirably in covering the wide side of the field. Cox returns on the opposite side, with Chappel the nickel back. Smith moved from receiver to corner and showed feistiness, while Robinson made a late switch.
Positives: New secondary coach Chris Ball brings experience and enthusiasm to a position filled with young talent. Berry was one of the stars of the spring, holding his own against a talented receiving corps. He has quickness, good coverage skills and a highly competitive attitude. Cox adds nice size and toughness on the other side and is a vocal leader. The hard-hitting Chappel makes up for his size with versatility. Smith was a pleasant surprise, adapting quickly to a position he’d never really played.
Negatives: Berry is slightly built at 5-9, 175, and needs to add some muscle for durability. Gary, who redshirted last season, was injured early, never fully recovered and was passed on the depth chart by Smith. Robinson has moved from safety to receiver to safety to corner and appears to be a special teams star without a position. The coaches are keeping their fingers crossed he can play corner. If not, he’s running out of places to play.
X factor: Jackson and Murdock will add size and speed to a position occupied by sub-6-footers. Jackson is blessed with 4.3-second speed in the 40-yard dash, while Murdock was recruited to Alabama by Ball and is considered a talented playmaker who could see the field early on.
Projected starters: Aaron Berry, Kennard Cox. They started the entire spring and gave no indications that they couldn’t handle the jobs. Berry is an electric talent in coverage, while Cox is physical enough to handle the boundary. Chappel will serve as nickel back and could push Cox for playing time as the top backup.