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Eli Ricks
CFB

Is Eli Ricks Back?

  • Ryan Fowler
  • October 25, 2022
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One of the most highly sought-after transfers in the portal this spring, cornerback Eli Ricks’ path to snaps has taken the scenic route through eight weeks in Tuscaloosa. The former running mate alongside Derek Stingley Jr. during their time in Baton Rouge together, Alabama’s win over Mississippi State showcased a talent we’ve all been waiting to see in heavy doses this fall. 

Ricks allowed one catch and forced five incompletions on 10 targets against the Bulldogs’ offense—they had no answer for Ricks on the perimeter. While the highly touted 2023 draft prospect has spent more time on the sidelines than within the boundary this fall, his increase in snaps was overwhelmingly needed following an abysmal performance from Nick Saban’s secondary against Tennessee. 

Although it’s pro talent galore within the Tide’s secondary in Brian Branch, Jordan Battle, Kool-Aid McKinstry, and DeMarcco Hellams, it was Ricks who—in the preseason—received much of the spotlight as perimeter stalwart penciled in to hear his name called on night one next April. Although his arrival has been delayed and questions have been raised in abundance as to why in fact he’s ended up in Saban’s doghouse, Ricks was everything we’d thought he’d be in his first substantial workload.

When he’s on the field, he’s been smooth, physical, and flat-out dominant on the outside. Through eight weeks in 103 total coverage snaps, Ricks has been targeted 14 times, allowed two receptions, and has recorded a handful of pass breakups. While the first month of the season saw Ricks appear in spurts working opposite McKinstry and Terrion Arnold, the LSU transfer ultimately relinquished starting duties to Arnold. But after not appearing in the last three games, Ricks aligned opposite McKinstry for the first snap against Mississippi State—his first start in crimson threads.

“I thought he did a good job… he gave up one throw,” Saban said. “When you’re playing five under man, you’re supposed to be underneath the guy, so the guy shouldn’t be able to catch a comeback on you and he caught one on him. Caught one on Kool-Aid on 4th and 10…But I thought he played well. He prepared well all week.”

Now, he’s preparing for his return to the Bayou and for an LSU offense firing on all cylinders behind quarterback Jayden Daniels. While a bye week sits between a huge AP Top 25 showdown, if Alabama hopes to reach its performance ceiling as a defense and punch its ticket back to the college football playoff, Eli Ricks will have to remain a major key to their high-powered vehicle.