The departure of Cyrus Jones to the professional game, leaves a spot at cornerback opposite sophomore Marlon Humphrey.
With reserve corner Tony Brown training with safeties, rising sophomore defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick is a frontrunner to assume the role. He was exceptional last season, recording 45 tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, 11 pass breakups (team-high), a quarterback hurry, a blocked punt, two interceptions and three defensive touchdowns.
His blocked punt came against Georgia on Oct. 3, 2015.
He came in untouched, took the ball off the punter’s foot and returned it for a score. Alabama went on to wash out the Bulldogs 38-10 at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga.
Both of Fitzpatrick’s interceptions came at newly-renovated Kyle Field, when the Crimson Tide faced Texas A&M.
He picked off quarterback Kyle Allen twice, totaling 88 return yards and two touchdowns. Fitzpatrick became the first Alabama defender in school history to put in two interception return touchdowns in the same game.
He did well in the team’s nickel package, but now Fitzpatrick enters phase two of being a headline name. Jeremy Pruitt was brought back to Alabama, in hopes to make its secondary elite.
Derrick Ansley, former defensive backs coach at Kentucky, mentored Dre Kirkpatrick, Mark Barron and DeQuan Menzie into being All-American selections for the Tide in 2011.
Fitzpatrick, 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, has the hands, speed and ball skills to play on an island. The subtle notion of turning to face the ball is something that he and the team must improve on.
His efforts earned him Freshman All-American honors through Sporting News and a spot on the Freshman All-SEC Team.
Fitzpatrick is one of few names that is poised for a big 2016 campaign.