Alabama loses leader in secondary

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Vinnie Sunseri sat on the far sideline Saturday night watching the game in track pants, his hands stuffed in his pockets. Only moments earlier Alabama's starting safety was huddled around his teammates, counting off something on his fingers. He shook his head, started back from zero and counted again.

Today we know what he was likely counting: weeks or maybe months. Sunseri will miss the remainder of the season with a torn knee ligament.

Alabama coach Nick Saban announced the diagnosis Monday. Sunseri's loss cannot be understated. His leadership and big-play ability have been a boon to a secondary that's dealt with a lot of turnover this season.

Though his replacement, sophomore Landon Collis, is arguably more talented in terms of sheer measurables, he's not yet the same type of leader and playmaker. When Alabama needed a play against Texas A&M earlier in the season, Sunseri made it, intercepting a pass and juking Johnny Manziel before going the distance for the touchdown. Sunseri's nose for the football will be missed.

Alabama has Saturday's game against Tennessee and a bye week to work out the kinks in the back end of the defense. Then comes Nov. 9 and the 13th-ranked LSU Tigers for a game with championship implications. Zach Mettenberger and his duo of talented receivers -- Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. -- have had tremendous success this season, helping LSU to the fourth-most passing yards in the SEC.