Alabama is getting its first taste of Ga’Quincy “Kool-Aid” McKinstry this spring, and the initial reviews have been positive. After spending a brief stint training with the basketball team in January, the talented freshman has turned his attention solely to football the past month as he looks to compete for early playing time this fall.
While the five-star cornerback still has a ways to go before he gets Nick Saban’s defense down pat, his initial few workouts have shown promise.
“Kool-Aid, you know, is making progress,” Saban said during his post-scrimmage press conference Friday. “I think, you know he’s shown that he has some ability to contribute to the team. I think that, you know, he has to play with more consistency in his position. He needs to know what to do all the time.”
McKinstry comes to Alabama with quite a bit of hype. The five-star cornerback is rated as the top player in the state of Alabama as well as the No. 1 player at his position. A two-way star in high school, he tallied 12 pass breakups and two interceptions for touchdowns on defense while hauling in 45 receptions for 706 yards and 11 touchdowns on offense during his senior season last year.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound athlete is also a star on the basketball court where he averaged 15 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game during his junior season — production that saw him offered in basketball at Alabama as well as football.
However, in Saban’s complex defensive scheme, athleticism only gets you so far.
“He’s like all the other young players out there,” Saban said. “I think these guys find out that this is not going to be as easy as they thought it was. But I think he’s shown a lot of maturity. And he has played with toughness. I’m not satisfied with where he is, but I’m certainly pleased with the progress he’s making.”
Saban also spoke highly of McKinstry earlier the week while stating he wanted to see how he and the other young cornerbacks performed “when the fur flies” during Alabama’s first scrimmage. When asked about the secondary following the scrimmage, Saban stated that the players with experience played “pretty well” while noting that the Tide still needed to find more guys who could play “winning football.”
McKinstry might not be up to that level just yet, but early indications seem to suggest he could carve out a role in Alabama’s defense this fall. Although, to do so would be no small feat.
The Tide loses just one starter from last year’s secondary in All-American cornerback Patrick Surtain II. Josh Jobe returns as the starting cornerback on the other side of the ball, while Malachi Moore should be fully healthy to take on his role at Star by the fall. The Tide also brings plenty of talent on the back end as Jordan Battle, DeMarcco Hellams, Daniel Wright and Brian Branch all figure to play a role in certain packages.
At the moment, Jalyn Armour-Davis has received the majority of the first-team snaps at the cornerback role vacated by Surtain. Marcus Banks is also an option at the position moving forward.
While that looks like quite the hill to climb for McKinstry, the talented freshman appears to have taken an early step in the right direction so far.