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Jumbo Package: Celebrating Minkah

The leader of the secondary joined some elite company by cleaning up on individual awards.

NCAA Football: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl-Alabama vs Washington John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday, everyone. We are in that lull between conference championship games and bowl season, but award season is in full effect. We already knew that Minkah Fitzpatrick was special, but last night he joined some extraordinarily rare company.

Fitzpatrick said it was a dream come true to join Woodson and Peterson as the only players to ever win both awards.

“That’s pretty cool,” he said. “I don’t think it’s hitting me right now. My mind is elsewhere right now, thinking about Clemson and the future and getting back to my team. I appreciate all the honors and all the accolades but I’m focusing on the future.

“Me and my team faced a whole lot of adversity this year,” Fitzpatrick said. “We had a lot of people get hurt in the first game. I was injured. My teammates pushed me and got me better. It wasn’t (anything) too serious. We all worked together and pushed through it. So winning this award after all that is a nice way to cap it off. But we want that ring to finish it off for sure.”

Charles Woodson, Patrick Peterson, Minkah Fitzpatrick. That pretty well says it all, doesn’t it?

The Thorpe is given to the top defensive back, and the Bednarik to the top overall defensive player. It is difficult to put into words just how much Minkah has meant to this program over the last three seasons. With a chance to get healthy, you have to believe that he and Rashaan Evans are going to come out ready to show the world what this defense would have been. The film of the season opener offers a clue.

Are you going to doubt them?

A couple of Alabama freshmen were recognized:

But, sadly, one of the seniors will leave campus without his position’s highest honor:

This feels criminal, though it’s impossible to fault the choice of the Texas kid who led the nation in yards per punt. Don’t worry, J.K. Alabama fans know how good you are, and something tells me that NFL scouts do as well.

Jeremy Pruitt is clearly the topic du jour, and he certainly has a tall task in front of him.

Smart was sitting just to Saban's left in the stage two years after taking the Georgia job. This isn't an apples to apples situation with him and Pruitt. There's the early signing period that begins in the middle of the pre-Christmas practice routine.

"The things Jeremy are about to go through is probably going to be more challenging in regards to that," Smart said. "I'm glad now, looking back that I did what I did. It was the right thing to do. And it certainly helped that we won the game. But it was a very challenging 30-day period."

It will be interesting to see how the early signing day affects the Pruitt situation. One would assume that he will be recruiting for Tennessee during the first week of practice, but that won’t have any impact on the game plan itself since Saban uses those first few practices to work on fundamentals in a camp-style environment.

For all of the hand-wringing around the “should he stay or should he go” debate, at least one of his players seems to be happy about the decision to coach in the playoffs:

Pruitt’s recruiting prowess was undoubtedly a key factor in his getting the job. Tennessee has had some major recruiting issues recently, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. A great showing by his Alabama unit would be nothing but a benefit for him in this regard, so the motivation should be there. Oh, and if you are losing it over his offering a job to a kid in a minor front office role who was coaching receivers at East Texas Baptist two years ago, please step away from the ledge. Brian Niedermeyer was not going to be on Alabama’s coaching staff any time in the foreseeable future.

As far as Pruitt’s replacement, there is an obvious internal candidate in Tosh Lupoi.

In terms of Alabama’s next defensive coordinator, look for outside linebackers coach Tosh Lupoi to get a serious look. Prior to the season, Lupoi earned a pay raise from $550,000 to $950,000. He was also given the title of co-defensive coordinator.

Lupoi is a hot commodity in the coaching world, and Saban will want to hang on to him. Another promotion may be the only way.

Tosh is already making coordinator money. It will be up to him and Saban to decide whether he is ready to assume that type of role. I could see Derrick Ansley getting a raise and co-DC title as well. The question will be whether Saban brings on another defensive assistant or uses the open slot to bring on Chris Weinke or Dan Werner in a full-time capacity. He could opt to bring both on board with the tenth coaching slot available in January.

The worst part of Pruitt’s introductory press conference was watching him and Fulmer hold up one of those puke orange jerseys with his name on the back of it. Shank saw it and, as usual, offered some commentary.

Very accurate.

The in-state crown jewel of the 2018 class had himself a nice night in the state title game:

Armour-Davis was involved in multiple aspects of the game. He returned a kick 36 yards on St. Paul's first touchdown drive in the third, lined up in the Wildcat and at receiver and fielded punts. He finished with 55 yards on three catches and four yards on two carries.

"I was just taking what they were giving me," Armour-Davis said of the kick return. "I just tried to get down field. I thought I had one more crease, but it's all good. It worked out perfectly for us."

It’s great that you can do all that other stuff, Jalyn, but let’s just make sure that you are ready to compete for a role in the secondary as a freshman, OK?

Julio Jones is really good at football, folks, and not just catching one:

We always did call him The Predator.

That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.

Roll Tide.