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Former LSU DB stepping up for Alabama’s defense

Saivion Smith was left lying on the field at about the 5-yard line, watching helplessly as D.K. Metcalf cruised into the end zone for Ole Miss.

It was the end of maybe the worst nine seconds of Smith’s football career and, at the time, the end of a short-lived run as one of Alabama’s starting cornerbacks.

Most players would have had a tough time bouncing back from that, from getting beaten for a 75-yard touchdown on the first play of a game and then being benched after that play.

Smith has, though.

Seven weeks later, the former LSU Tiger has re-established himself as a valued member of the Crimson Tide defense and will start for the Tide on Saturday in a huge game against his former team.

“He’s made strides all season,” Alabama safety Deionte Thompson said. “He’s a guy we’re counting on to keep improving every week. He’s doing a good job of that.”

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Smith was one of the top-ranked members of LSU’s 2016 signing class, rated as the fifth-best cornerback and 48th-best overall prospect in that particular recruiting class.

Tigers coach Ed Orgeron said this week that he remembers going to IMG Academy to scout Smith and seeing, as he put it, a 6-foot-1 cornerback with speed, long arms, great feet and great acceleration. However, Smith left LSU in May 2017 and spent last season at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College before ultimately landing at Alabama.

“It was hard (losing him) obviously, having a great relationship with his family, but it was best for him,” Orgeron said. “He went to a junior college, did the things he was supposed to do, so I’m happy for him. I watched him on tape. He’s doing a fine job. He’s a fine corner.”

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Smith had been starting since day one for the Tide until that play against Ole Miss, working with the first-team defense from Alabama’s first spring practice in March until giving up that touchdown.

He’s stepped up since then, though.

Smith is known inside the Tide building for being very confident and tough-minded, and word is that players and coaches were impressed with the way he moved on and bounced back from what happened against Ole Miss.

Smith moved back into the starting lineup in early October after Alabama lost star cornerback Trevon Diggs to a season-ending foot injury. In his first game back as a starter, Smith had two interceptions during the Tide’s win over Missouri and was named one of Alabama’s players of the week.

Now, in his third game back as a starter, Smith will try to slow down some of his old teammates.

“We think he’s getting more confident and done a good job,” Tide coach Nick Saban said. “And I think that it’s going to be important that our corners play really well against their receivers (for LSU). They take a lot of shots. They throw the ball downfield a lot. They’ve been pretty good at making explosive plays. So the corners will be tested in this game, and how they play in the game will have a big impact on the outcome of the game, no doubt.”

Matt Zenitz is an Alabama and Auburn reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @mzenitz.



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