Editor’s note: Each day between now and Alabama's date with Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship, TideNation will review the season for a key Crimson Tide player and attempt to project what’s next for him. Today we’ll look at cornerback Deion Belue.
No. 13 Deion Belue
36 tackles, 2 interceptions, 8 passes defended
Role in 2012: The former Alabama signee had to take the junior college route to Tuscaloosa, Ala., but when he did, his impact was immediate as he won the starting job early on, beating out John Fulton and fellow transfer Travell Dixon, who left the program before the start of the season.
The good: Belue certainly looked the part early, turning in an interception return for a touchdown in his first career scrimmage, showing off elite speed and good ball skills. He started off the season by flashing those same attributes. Michigan found little success on his side of the field in the season opener and he tallied two interceptions in his first five games, one against Western Kentucky and another against Ole Miss.
The bad: Belue's production has tapered off dramatically in the second half of the season. He hasn't registered an interception or a pass defensed in five games. Georgia receiver Tavarres King abused Belue in coverage, racking up five of his seven receptions in the SEC championship game against the 5-foot-11 defender. Belue got turned around and discombobulated on several routes, losing leverage on receivers.
Crystal ball: There's little doubt about Belue's talent. His speed and agility are obvious whenever he steps on the field. The question is whether he can develop those traits and become an elite cornerback in the way Dee Milliner progressed from his sophomore to junior year. Frankly, Belue will have to for the Tide to be successful next season, as Milliner is likely to capitalize on his strong season and turn pro, leaving Belue to become the No. 1 cornerback and either Fulton or Geno Smith to step in opposite him. The more immediate concern, however, is how Belue will fare against Notre Dame in the title game. Luckily, for the Tide, the Irish are not known as a passing team. Brian Kelly's squad is 75th in the country in passing yards per game (218.83) with a freshman, Everett Golson, under center.