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Alabama Football Impact Players

UA safety Xavier McKinney gaining more confidence as complete player

© Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama fans never wanted to lose its defensive backfield to the National Football League, especially after how last season ended, but it provided a silver lining as head coach Nick Saban has located someone that is prepared to carry the torch. 

When it comes to fans, the sun sets on Minkah Fitzpatrick as the most complete defensive back to come through Saban’s program. In comparing someone else to the former All-American safety, New Jersey native and first-round pick, one must have all information in order before getting drilled by those that watched Fitzpatrick. Even if it is a young riser on this current Tide team, supporters of this program feel a certain way about Fitzpatrick and what he brought. 

After mastering high school at Roswell, Ga., and spurning Kirby Smart, Xavier McKinney immediately drew comparisons to ex-Tide safety, Landon Collins. For McKinney, his hard-hitting style put him the mold of a “box safety” but unlike his predecessor, he has put those rumors to rest while still being in college.

As one of Alabama’s better ball-hawking defenders, McKinney has registered two pass breakups, two interceptions (one for touchdown) and two forced fumbles through eight regular season games. He has emerged alongside redshirt junior Deionte Thompson, to create one of college football’s most elite duos at the safety position.  

The 6-foot-1, 198-pounder also possesses the ability to affect opposing quarterbacks, seeing how he is third on the team in sacks (three). A couple of sources confirmed with yours truly of Touchdown Alabama Magazine with their comparison to McKinney being Javier Arenas; nevertheless, Saban has been very pleased with the sophomore’s play in handling everything. 

“X is a really good player,” Saban said.  

“He’s very explosive. He’s got really good speed. He is a very instinctive guy. He’s got cover ability for a safety, which I think is really, really important. We make him be the money guy or sixth DB in the box as much as we can… Same thing we did with Minkah on third downs last year and we can do that because he can cover well and he’s physical. He’s a good blitzer and he can tackle well and I think all of those are sort of the modern-day safety. You gotta be able to cover people, cover RPO’s and he does a good job of being a deep field player as well as playing short areas of the field.” 

Fans of Louisiana State University and other supporters of the program have talked all week on how the Tigers will create much success on offense. While cornerbacks Patrick Surtain II (heavily courted by LSU in recruitment), Saivion Smith (played freshman year at LSU) and Shyheim Carter (Louisiana native) all expect to have marquee performances, keep all eyes on McKinney roaming the field of Tiger Stadium in search of generating primetime plays.

Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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