ESPN Alabama free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has been suspended indefinitely for violation of team rules, according to coach Nick Saban, who did not set a timetable on the preseason All-SEC defender’s absence.”When guys get suspended, I never ever say what it’s for, so I’m not going there, so don’t ask me,” Saban said Wednesday as his team prepares for Saturday’s game against Georgia State. “It’s the way I’ve always handled this — every guy. They do right, they wouldn’t be getting suspended. And I don’t know for how long this will be, so don’t ask me that either.” A talented underclassmen with excellent range and ball skills, Clinton-Dix currently is ranked No. 18 on Scouts Inc.’s Top 32 for 2014. He’s second on the team with 24 tackles and two pass breakups. His primary backup entering the year, senior Nick Perry, already has been lost for the season with a shoulder injury. Instead, the job of replacing Clinton-Dix will fall to either Landon Collins or Geno Smith. Collins, a former five-star recruit at safety, has primarily played at inside cornerback this season but has since been working at free safety. Smith, who came on strong at inside corner late last season before transitioning to safety during fall camp, has not seen the field much this year after being arrested for a DUI prior to the start of the season. “Landon Collins really doesn’t play the same position,” Saban said. “We’ve been working him at that position. Nick Perry was really Ha Ha’s backup. Nick Perry’s out, he had shoulder surgery. So he would have obviously been a guy who had experience, who played a lot in games before, who would have played there. But we’ve been working Landon and Geno Smith, primarily. We moved Geno to safety way back in fall camp. So those are the two guys that will primarily play that position in this game.” Clinton-Dix is Alabama’s fourth announced suspension since the start of preseason camp, joining linebacker Trey DePriest, Smith and tight end Malcolm Faciane. “He’s a great player and obviously he will be missed, but I’m confident in the guys we have behind him and the guys in the secondary to make adjustments,” Tide defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan said. “I think we’ll be all right.” The Tide will not face a single ranked team in October. Alabama plays Georgia State, Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee followed by a bye week before No. 10 LSU travels to Tuscaloosa on Nov. 9.
The suspension of starting free safety is a huge loss for the Alabama Crimson Tide, but as we know “indefinitely” can mean basically any number of games, and I would be very surprised if Clinton-Dix is not on the field when LSU comes to town on November 9th. Clinton-Dix was the number one safety in my 2013 College Football Preview, and while his suspension will not badly hurt a loaded Alabama defense from a pure talent standpoint, his leadership and experience will be sorely missed. It will also be interesting to see what Clinton-Dix did to earn this suspension, but as a player that was expected to become a team leader during this season, his leadership skills are something that will now be picked apart by scouts at the NFL combine. In fact, this suspension could be a blessing in disguise for Alabama fans, as it may be in Clinton-Dix’s best interest to return to Alabama for his senior season and rehab his image as a team leader in the eyes of NFL scouts and put any character concerns to rest.