The talent that exudes from Alabama’s freshman cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick should not come as a shock to anyone. A native of Old Bridge, N.J., Fitzpatrick arrived at the University of Alabama as a five-star prospect during the summer.
He pushed sophomores Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey (former five-star recruits) in fall practice, earning a starting role on defense at Star. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound freshman was chewed out by Crimson Tide’s head coach Nick Saban after a pass interference foul against Wisconsin, but has been exceptional since then. Fitzpatrick stands at 17 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and three pass breakups through four games. His 17 tackles place him fourth on the team, behind Reuben Foster, Jarran Reed and Reggie Ragland.
He led Alabama’s defense in tackles (seven) last week against Louisiana-Monroe, but Saturday will present a different challenge. Georgia has weapons on the outside with Malcolm Mitchell and Isaiah McKenzie; however, Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer wants to line up and run the ball right at Alabama.
Fitzpatrick’s combination of speed, technique and physicality should be effective in taking away angles from Georgia’s run game. The biggest key for him is fighting off blocks in his pursuit to the edge. He attacks the ball well and does a solid job of tackling in space, but facing the ball and being stable in run support are two things Fitzpatrick must do this weekend.
He is poised for a huge game, if he can stick his nose in to create stops in the run game.
Stephen M. Smith is a senior analyst and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.