Minkah Fitzpatrick

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Pac-12 defensive stars headline Lott IMPACT Trophy semi-finalists

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The semifinalists for this year’s Lott IMPACT Trophy have been announced, and it is quite an impressive short list of some of college football’s finest defensive talents. Among the semifinalists for the award are Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and Iowa linebacker Josey Jewel. The Pac-12 leads all conferences with three semi-finalists.

The Lott IMPACT Trophy honors the nation’s best player that exhibits the qualities of former NFL All-Pro Ronnie Lott; integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community, and tenacity.

In addition to three players from the Pac-12, this year’s semifinalists include two players from the Big 12, and one player each from the ACC, Big Ten, and SEC. Notre Dame is also represented by safety Drue Tranquill. A Big Ten player has won the award each of the past two seasons with Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib winning the award in 2015 and Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers receiving the award last season.

The 2017 Lott IMPACT Trophy Semi-Finalists

Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Malik Jefferson, DE, Texas
Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa
Micah Kiser, LB, Virginia
Hercules Mata’afa, DL, Washington State
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, LB, Oklahoma
Harrison Phillips, DL, Stanford
Cameron Smith, LB, USC
Drue Tranquill, S, Notre Dame

Alabama and Penn State land two Jim Thorpe Award semifinalists

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Th semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award were unveiled on Monday, and it goes to show how good the defensive secondaries are for Alabama and Penn State. The Crimson Tide and Nittany Lions were the only schools with two semifinalists out of the 13 total players to be announced as semifinalists for the award for the nation’s top defensive back.

Alabama is represented by Minkah Fitzpatrick and Levi Wallace. Alabama has one Jim Thorpe Award winner in the history of the award (first awarded in 1986), with Antonio Langham winning the award in 1993. Penn State is looking for the first Jim Thorpe Award winner in school history. Marcus Allen and Grant Haley have been named semifinalists for the award this year, giving Penn State a chance to have a player win the award.

Other notable players named as a semifinalist include Florida State’s Derwin James and Duke’s Jeremy McDuffie and Ohio State’s Denzel Ward. The Big Ten, SEC, and ACC all have three semifinalists. The winner of the award will be announced during the annual Home Depot College Football Awards Show on December 7 on ESPN.

2017 Jim Thorpe Award Semifinalists

Marcus Allen, Penn State
Quin Blanding, Virginia
Jalen Davis, Utah State
DeShon Elliott, Texas
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Grant Haley, Penn State
Derwin James, Florida State
Jeremy McDuffie, Duke
Parry Nickerson, Tulane
Justin Reid, Stanford
Dominick Sanders, Georgia
Levi Wallace, Alabama
Denzel Ward, Ohio State

No. 1 Alabama forced five turnovers in 49-24 win at No. 16 Arkansas

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If you thought No. 16 Arkansas was going to give top-ranked Alabama a good battle in the SEC West, well, you were out of luck Saturday night. Alabama improved to 6-0 (3-0 SEC) with a 49-30 victory that never felt as the final score might even suggest. Arkansas (4-2) fell to 0-2 in SEC play on a night in which they turned the football over five times. Against Alabama, that is far too many turnovers to have, and Alabama showed why.

Alabama returned two Arkansas turnovers for a touchdown and converted another Razorback turnover into a touchdown. One of the highlights of the night for the Alabama defense was Minkah Fitzpatrick‘s 100-yard interception return for a score in the fourth quarter. The score was somewhat crucial too, as a touchdown for Arkansas could have cut Alabama’s lead to 11 points. Instead, Alabama padded its lead and took a 49-24 lead to essentially hold Arkansas at arm’s length the rest of the way.

Nick Saban will find plenty to be upset about despite his top-ranked team once again coming through with a double-digit victory, because that’s just what Saban does. Giving up 400 yards through the air surely will catch the ire of Saban. Austin Allen tossed three touchdowns and hit the 400-yard mark, but he did so while also having three passes picked off. Alabama did do a good job of taking away the run, which Arkansas loves to use to their advantage. The Razorbacks were held under 100 rushing yards for the first time since November 21, 2015 when Mississippi State held them to 73 rushing yards. Alabama was one of two teams in 2015 to hold Arkansas to fewer than 100 yards. The last time Arkansas had more than 100 rushing yards against Alabama was in 2013, with 165 yards in a 52-0 defeat at the hands of the Crimson Tide.

Alabama also had three turnovers of their own, which will not sit well with Saban. Quarterback Jalen Hurts completed 13 of his 17 pass attempts for 253 yards and two touchdowns with one interception, and Damien Harris led all players with 122 rushing yards. Hurts led the way with two touchdown runs. ArDarius Stewart was the leading receiver for Alabama with five receptions for 120 yards. Jared Cornelius of Arkansas topped that with five receptions for 146 yards. Neither scored a touchdown, however.

One other stat Saban will likely focus on is his defense’s lack of getting off the field. Arkansas converted half of their third down plays for a first down, and one of two fourth-down plays.

Next up for Alabama is another road game, this time against Tennessee. Expect Alabama to put a hurting on the Vols in the first half before Tennessee inexplicably battles back to make things interesting and perhaps dicey in the second half. If this season has taught us anything thus far, it is that Tennessee does not go away easily. Can they do the same against Alabama?

Arkansas hosts Ole Miss next week.

Alabama cruising to fifth straight recruiting national championship

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Alabama may not have added any hardware to the postseason trophy cases in Tuscaloosa, but Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide are on cruise control to another recruiting national championship. Alabama is the leader in the latest team recruiting rankings for the Class of 2015 with just over two weeks until National Signing Day.

Alabama has scored the top recruiting haul each season since 2011, so Alabama’s spot atop the current team rankings is hardly a surprise. This year’s haul currently includes the nation’s top running back, Damien Harris (profile), and the nation’s top wide receiver, Calvin Ridley (profile). Alabama also has a commitment from the state’s top recruit, defensive tackle Daron Payne (profile) and the top prospect out of New Jersey, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (profile). California dual-threat quarterback Blake Barnett (profile) is a four-star addition to the recruiting class as well.

Skim down the Rivals 100 and you will see nine players committed to Alabama, and six more undecided players are considered in the running for Alabama. Alabama has four five-star players currently in line to join the program. Only Florida State has more five-star players (five). While some programs must operate by a quality over quantity approach, Alabama uses both. Of Alabama’s 26 players currently committed, 20 are either four or five-star recruits.

Another year goes by but it is the same old pattern for Saban and company. Alabama does not rebuild, it simply reloads.

2015 Rivals Team Rankings (as of 1/20/2015)

1. Alabama

2. Florida State

3. USC

4. Clemson

5. Tennessee

6. Georgia

7. Ohio State

8. Notre Dame

9. Texas A&M

10. Auburn

11. Texas

12. Penn State

13. South Carolina

14. Oklahoma

15. Mississippi State

16. Oregon

17. LSU

18. UCLA

19. Miami FL

20. Virginia Tech

Full team rankings via Rivals.