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Alabama Football Impact Players

Alabama freshman safety approaching a new milestone in the Nick Saban era

Gary Cosby Jr. - Tuscaloosa News/USA Today Sports

The emergence of a true freshman safety for Alabama puts this team in the mindset of the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship team for Crimson Tide fans.

Minkah Fitzpatrick, a former All-American safety, was an emerging freshman in 2015 for the Tide.

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The New Jersey native recorded two interceptions for touchdowns that season. Caleb Downs, a former five-star, has been incredible in his first season with this Crimson Tide team. Downs, a native Georgian, is a semifinalist for the Shaun Alexander Freshman of the Year Award from the Football Writers Association of America. Nick Saban was impressed with Downs in spring practice, but now the college football world is enamored by him. The 6-foot, 203-pound safety is closing in on giving Saban something he has never had before at Alabama. Downs is the team’s leader for total tackles (83), but he is 17 stops away from becoming the first Alabama freshman safety to have 100 tackles in the Saban era. He joins Mark Barron (2010), Landon Collins (2014), Xavier McKinney (2019), and DeMarcco Hellams (2022) as the fifth safety to lead the Tide in tackles under Saban.

Downs has finished multiple games as the team’s leading tackler, including last week versus Kentucky. 

He emerged from Kroger Field with seven tackles and nearly returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Downs assisted the Tide to a 49-21 victory over the Wildcats, helping Alabama capture an SEC Western Divison title. He is in line to make the Freshman All-SEC team and a Freshman All-America team. Downs looks forward to playing the marquee school — University of Georgia — of his home state in the SEC Championship Game. His eyes are also on helping Alabama to a national championship.

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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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