Alabama Team News

The SEC’s top individual matchups this week

Welcome to our Wednesday List, a weekly ranking of the top three individual matchups involving SEC football players for the upcoming weekend.

Two of this week’s matchups involve the same game; the other is an important game-within-a-game in a contest that features the nation’s best running back.

3. Texas A&M WR Christian Kirk vs. Alabama CB Minkah Fitzpatrick

Minkah Fitzpatrick

Minkah Fitzpatrick has become a key member of Alabama’s secondary as a freshman. TIM HEITMAN/USA TODAY SPORTS

The particulars: Kirk is a 5-foot-11, 200-pound true freshman; Fitzpatrick is a 6-1, 195-pound true freshman.
The skinny: These are two of the best true freshmen in the nation, and they should see a lot of each other Saturday. Kirk operates almost exclusively out of the slot, while Fitzpatrick is the Tide’s nickelback. (Interestingly, neither comes from what could be considered a natural recruiting area for either school: Kirk went to high school in the Phoenix area, and Fitzpatrick in Jersey City, N.J.) Despite stepping into a lineup with numerous proven receivers, Kirk leads the Aggies with 32 receptions and leads the league with 519 receiving yards. Fitzpatrick, who has the most natural talent of any Alabama defensive back, has started four games and is tied for the team lead with six pass breakups. He also is physical and an able blitzer, with two sacks and three tackles for loss. It’s his coverage ability that will be the key against A&M.

2. LSU Gs Will Clapp and Maea Teuhema vs. Florida DT Jonathan Bullard

The particulars: Clapp is a 6-5, 303-pound redshirt freshman and Teuhema is a 6-5, 327-pound true freshman; Bullard is 6-3, 283-pound senior.
The skinny: Clapp and Teuhema have teamed with junior C Ethan Pocic (6-7, 303) to pave the way for LSU TB Leonard Fournette on his between-the-tackles forays. But those guys haven’t seen a player like Bullard yet this season. Bullard, who also has played end during his career, has an exceptionally quick first step and also holds up well at the point of attack. UF coaches move Bullard around, and they’ll be looking to get him as many one-on-one matchups as possible against Clapp or Teuhema because he will win more than his share of those. The key is that when Pocic goes to double on him, Florida’s other interior linemen need to step up. Florida needs production from its linemen; the Gators have two high-level linebackers in Antonio Morrison and Jarrad Davis, but depth at the position is non-existent. That means trouble if Fournette consistently gets to the second level untouched.

1. Alabama OT Cam Robinson vs. Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett

The particulars: Robinson is a 6-6, 326-pound sophomore; Garrett is a 6-5, 262-pound sophomore.
The skinny: This is a matchup of the consensus No. 1 prospect in the 2014 recruiting cycle — Garrett — against the consensus No. 3 prospect — Robinson. (In case you’re wondering, Leonard Fournette was No. 2.) Both thrived as true freshmen, and both are among the most talented players in the nation at their positions. Garrett is an immensely talented pass rusher; he was second in the SEC with 11.5 sacks last season and leads the league and is fourth nationally with 7.5 this season. While has has gotten better against the run — he was hampered last season by a broken thumb — that still is a facet of his game that he must work on. Robinson will have the upper hand when it comes to blocking for the run Saturday; he is a massive man who can be a road grader in the running game. But Robinson has struggled as a pass rusher this season (cfbfilmroom.com reports that the three sacks he has allowed is more than the rest of Alabama’s starting offensive line combined), and that bears watching against Garrett.

(Follow Mike Huguenin on Twitter @MikeHuguenin)

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