Alabama’s Deion Belue (13) with teammate Geno Smith (24) and Tide head coach Nick Saban. (Photo courtesy of Kent Gidley, University of Alabama)
Alabama’s Deion Belue spent a couple of football seasons in junior college before touching down in Tuscaloosa, but his high school coach said it’s clear the stopover did his former star player good.
When Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban released his depth chart earlier this week, Belue was listed as a first-team cornerback. He was the only newcomer to the Alabama roster to gain a starting position.
“When Deion finished high school, he was very young,” said John Mothershed, Deshler High’s head football coach since 1995. “He was still 17, and junior college helped him grow up. He also got some size in junior college.
“He’s gained 20, 25 pounds since high school, and it looks like that’s helped him a lot.”
Belue signed with Alabama in 2010 out of Deshler but did not meet the NCAA’s academic standards. So instead of joining the Crimson Tide for preseason workouts, he headed to Northeast Mississippi Community College.
He completed his stint there in time to enroll at Alabama in January, which allowed him to go through spring practice. The new and improved Belue impressed from the start.
“He got thrown into the fire with the plays and everything, but he progressively learned the plays and has been a great competitor out there on the field,” said Dee Milliner, who will start at the other cornerback slot. “He’s learning the plays and doing what he’s supposed to do.”
It might help that he is learning to play only one position. He is playing one cornerback position and stays there, even when Alabama uses a fifth defensive back, which Saban calls “star,” or a sixth, which is called “money.” It’s not unusual for veteran defensive backs to have to slide between various positions, depending on the defensive alignment.
The players say all this isn’t easy to learn, although a week ago Alabama coach Nick Saban admonished a reporter for suggesting his defense is “complicated.” Either way, Saban has had nothing but good things to say all preseason about how Belue is adjusting from junior college to Alabama football.
“Deion has done a very, very good job for us,” Saban said.
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