One of the nice parts about this gig are those occasional moments when we can fanboy. SBN was always meant to be an interactive community authored from a fan’s perspective. Ignoring whether they’ve increasingly abandoned that mission as the years go by (and they have, at least institutionally,) we still try and reclaim that joy of fandom from time to time here.
Today is one such occasion.
With absolutely no apologies to the much-hyped Lamar Jackson and Derwin James, there is not a better player in America at any position than Minkah Fitzpatrick. None.
The 6’1” 203-pound wunderkind can do it all: boundary corner, slot corner, captain the Star package, free safety, roving “bandit” back. He can rush the passer. He’s a sure tackler. He has exceptional cover skills in either man or zone. He’s excellent in run support. He’s great with the ball in the air and electric after he gets the ball in his hands. He has a knack for forcing the turnover; for not only being in the right place at the right time, but for creating those opportunities for himself and for others. He is wickedly-smart, leading the secondary at times as a Freshman, and taking over leadership of the entire defense as a sophomore following Eddie Jackson’s career-ending injury (damn, it still hurts to type that.) And, perhaps as importantly, he’s been healthy.
What impresses you as much on the field, is his demeanor off it. He is thoughtful, engaging, and plainly the cerebral leader of the secondary and defense.
From his first true road game as a Freshman in Athens, you could tell he was special. He moved in the open field like a sure, confident veteran. He is so rarely out of position, that even in the early stages of his career, you’d swear he had been playing in this defense his entire life. Not for nothing has Fitzpatrick been labeled “the veteran sophomore.”
His attention to detail, natural instincts, and god-given talent have allowed him to excel, despite playing nearly every position in the secondary. In fact, according to Tide defensive staff, he can play all six spots. He’s not just a jack of all trades, either. He’s also the highest graded defensive back in the nation, per Pro Football Focus.
Do-it-all CB/S Minkah Fitzpatrick returns as the nation's highest graded cornerback from a season ago. pic.twitter.com/93ppet62je— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) August 25, 2017
But, if you talk to teammates, his play is one of the last things they point to. Damien Harris summed up Fitzpatrick last year before the Clemson game with such unadulterated praise that it makes me blush.
“Guys like that, you can’t talk about enough,” said running back Damien Harris, who found himself sprinting down the sideline during Fitzpatrick’s pick-six Saturday. “Guys like him and ArDarius [Stewart], what they bring to this team is unmatched, whether it’s in the locker room, motivating us each and every day in practice, before the game, halftime adjustments or their performance on the field, which speaks for itself. You can’t give those guys enough credit.”
As Nick Saban said of Minkah, “he does it as well as anybody I’ve ever coached.”
Look at the stats Fitzpatrick has accumulated in just two short seasons: 111 tackles (72 solo,) 8.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 17 passes broken up, 1 punt return touchdown (also scored as a blocked kick return,) 8 interceptions for 274 yards (34.3 yards per,) and a forced fumble.
He already holds the Alabama record for interceptions returned for scores in a game (2;) he holds the record for longest interception return (100 yards, 108 unofficial;) he is in second place for most interception returns yards in season and in a career (and, needing just 27 more total yards, he will likely eclipse that this season.)
His four interceptions returned for a touchdown already makes him the school record-holder.
There may have been better corners, but not many. There may have been better safeties, but not many. But I have little hesitation in calling Minkah Fitzpatrick the greatest all-around defensive back in Alabama history and the best player in the country.
And we have him for another year. Enjoy it while it lasts. He’s special.
4 days ‘til Alabama football.
Is Minkah Fitzpatrick the best all-around defensive back in school history?
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