BamaInsider is unveiling its annual top-40 list for the Alabama football team. Players were rated based on their projected impact for the Crimson Tide this season. Today we continue the series by examining players 15-11.
10 — Jordan Battle, S
2020 highlights: Played in all 13 games last season, making 12 starts… Finished third on the team with 66 tackles, including three stops for a loss. Also recorded four pass breakups and returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown… Selected as one of the Alabama coaching staff’s defensive players of the week for his efforts against Kentucky.
Why he’s here: One of the staples of an elite Nick Saban defense comes at the safety position. Alabama’s 2011 unit featured a safety duo of Mark Barron and Robert Lester while the 2016 team had Eddie Jackson and Ronnie Harrison. With the Tide projected to put together another special defense this season, much of its success will be determined by how Jordan Battle is able to lead the backend of the secondary.
Battle is Alabama’s highest-graded returnee on defense, earning an 80.9 defensive mark from Pro Football Focus last year. After completing his first full season as a starter, the junior safety has already seen his name mentioned in a few early mock drafts as well.
With All-American cornerback Patrick Surtain II now in the NFL, Alabama will look for Battle to take on more of a leadership role in the secondary. Earlier this spring, Saban called out the safety, stating, “it’s kind of up to him as to how he wants to accept the role of leadership, how assertive he wants to be.” Battle appeared to rise to the challenge, stating that he’s eager to take on a bigger role off the field.
“That’s something that I’m comfortable with now because the players I have before me, who have shown me the way,” he said this spring. “Players last year like Landon Dickerson, Alex Leatherwood, Pat Surtain, guys like that. DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, guys like that showing me the way ever since I was a freshman. So at this point, I’m more comfortable being vocal and getting on other players.”
9 — Jameson Williams, WR
2020 highlights: Played in all eight of Ohio State’s games, making six starts… Recorded nine receptions for 154 yards and two touchdowns… Tallied a season-high three receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown during Ohio State’s Sugar Bowl win over Clemson.
Why he’s here: When Saban wants something, he generally gets it. So when the head coach mentioned a need for more speed in his receiving corps this spring, it was only a matter of time before he injected it into the unit.
Alabama’s added speed comes in the form of Ohio State transfer Jameson Williams, who will be eligible to play immediately due to the NCAA’s new one-time transfer policy. Williams is coming off a modest season as he was the third option behind two probable first-round picks in Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson at Ohio State. The 6-foot-2, 189-pound speedster figures to have a much bigger role for the Tide this year.
Alabama is looking to replace two first-rounders of its own this offseason in Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. The Tide brought in four Rivals100 receivers in this year’s class, but Saban has favored experience at the position in the past.
At the moment, John Metchie III and Slade Bolden figure to retain their first-team roles from last season. While the returning duo has plenty of talent, they lack the speed to open up defenses the way Smith and Waddle did last year. That’s where Williams should come in and why he’s so high up on this list.
8 — Malachi Moore, DB
2020 highlights: Played in 11 games, making 10 starts… Earned SEC All-Freshman honors and was selected as a Freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America… Led Alabama with three interceptions while also recording six pass deflections. Also registered 44 tackles, including four stops for a loss with a forced fumble and a 28-yard fumble return for a touchdown… Named the SEC Freshman of the Week for his play against Texas A&M and Mississippi State… Earned defensive player of the week honors from Alabama coaches following the Texas A&M, Tennessee and Mississippi State games.
Why he’s here: The Star position is key to Alabama’s defense and is typically handed to an experienced member of the secondary. That’s what made Malachi Moore’s season so special as he became the first true freshman to start at the position since Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2015.
Despite the complexities that come with playing at Star, Moore never seemed to look out of place. The 6-foot, 182-pound defensive back quickly emerged as one of the nation’s best young defenders, limiting opposing passers to a 68.3 NFL passer rating on balls thrown his way.
“Malachi’s been doing a tremendous job out there,” Surtain said last season. “He’s getting more comfortable as weeks go by… The sky’s the limit for him. He’s going to continue improving and getting better.”
Moore missed both games of the College Football Playoff due to an injury and was limited during spring camp. However, the sophomore should be good to go by the time the Tide starts back up again in the fall.
7 — Jahleel Billingsley, TE
2020 highlights: Played in 12 games, making four starts… Recorded 18 receptions for 287 yards and three touchdowns. Also took over kick-returning duties late in the season, averaging 17.8 yards on a team-high five returns.
Why he’s here: This might seem high for a player with just 20 college receptions to his name. However, Jahleel Billingsley was able to impress enough during his breakout spurt last season to earn a place in the top 10.
Over a three-game span against Kentcuky, Auburn and Arkansas, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound tight end piled up a combined nine receptions for 136 yards and two touchdowns. Billingsley cooled off a bit in the postseason but was still able to record a combined eight receptions for 95 yards against Florida, Notre Dame and Ohio State, recording multiple catches in each game.
With Miller Forristall and Carl Tucker on NFL rosters, Billingsley is now undoubtedly Alabama’s No. 1 option at tight end. This spring, the junior appeared to build up a good chemistry with Bryce Young as the two connected for several big plays, including three receptions for 49 yards on A-Day. After watching Irv Smith Jr. and O.J. Howard develop into early-round draft picks, Alabama has lost a bit of production at the tight end position in recent years. That figures to change this season with Billingsley poised for breakout success.
6 — Josh Jobe, CB
2020 highlights: Started all 13 games… Finished second on the team with 11 pass breakups while also recording 55 tackles, including 2.5 stops for a loss and two sacks with two forced fumbles… Named the Thorpe Award’s Player of the Week for his play at LSU … Selected as one of the defensive players of the week by Alabama coaches for his play against Missouri, Mississippi State, Auburn and Notre Dame.
Why he’s here: When it comes to players Alabama can’t afford to lose this season, Josh Jobe is near the top of the list. The Tide is already without its top cornerback from last year in Surtain. If Jobe goes down to injury, especially early in the year, Alabama’s secondary would be in a sticky situation.
While Surtain received the majority of praise last season, Jobe was also solid in coverage, holding opposing quarterbacks to a 47.3 completion rate on balls thrown his way. The hard-hitting safety was also able to force two fumbles, including one in the Rose Bowl win over Notre Dame.
The biggest critique of Jones’ game comes in his discipline as he committed a team-high 11 penalties last season — seven more than Dylan Moses who was next on the list. Alabama will need Jobe to show more on-field maturity as he heads up the secondary during his senior year.