Alabama Team News

Minkah Fitzpatrick gives Alabama coaches (and his future NFL employer) a versatile piece of puzzle

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Junior Minkah Fitzpatrick can do more than just play corner for Alabama. He can play every position in the Crimson Tide secondary.

“If we need help at corner, he can play corner,” Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt said. “If we need him inside at ‘Star’ (nickelback) or ‘Money’ (dime back), he can play there. Safety. He’s got a unique skill set.”

Fitzpatrick is a pick-six machine (a career school-record four already) who can cover and take you down in the open field (41 solo stops last season).

How Alabama utilizes the All-American this season may depend on the opponent – and its own personnel.

“Based on how the other players develop will probably determine to a large degree where he ends up playing,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

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So as good as he is, Fitzpatrick can’t play every position on every play. Alabama probably needs him more a corner because Trevon Diggs is a work in progress and Tony Brown isn’t a great in coverage.

But Hootie Jones struggles in coverage at safety, too. Ronnie Harrison has range and is talented, but he can’t cover the entire field.

Pruitt is known for his blitzing. That strategy helped Alabama a nation’s-leading post 54 sacks last season. He said the frequency of blitzes depends on how well the secondary can cover.

Having Marlon Humphrey stay for his junior season would’ve made this all a lot easier for Saban and Pruitt to figure out. Because he didn’t, Alabama may have to go through a stretch of trial and error early in the season to figure out how to best use Fitzpatrick and the remaining secondary.

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That could prove costly as early as the September 2 season opener against Florida State in Atlanta.

Fitzpatrick’s versatility will be a huge selling point for NFL teams, and he seems all but certain to be one of the top SEC prospects in the 2018 NFL draft. He is one of a number of SEC players who could go in the first round next April.

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