Minkah Fitzpatrick sets the Alabama record with his fourth career pick-six (Photo by Stuart McNair)

Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison were 15-game starters for Alabama last year

This is 13th in a series looking at Alabama positions prior to spring practice

Alabama had bad luck midway through last season when All-America safety candidate Eddie Jackson went down with a season-ending leg injury against Texas A&M in the eighth game of the year. Fortunately, the Crimson Tide had quality players at the position, led by Minkah Fitzpatrick, who had also been outstanding at Alabama’s Star (nickel) back position.
This year both Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison return at the Tide safety spots after both started every game in Alabama’s 14-1 Southeastern Conference championship season in 2016.
Alabama uses a strongside and weakside safety, but in preparation time (spring practice and fall camp) the safeties work on the left and right sides. When game preparation begins, they are designated strong or weak, but because of the left-right practice safeties are familiar with both sides.
Men who are designated as safeties are also possibilities to play in the Star and Money (dime). Alabama is in nickel formation a large percentage.
This is part of a series looking at all Alabama positions prior to the start of spring drills.
Fitzpatrick, a 6-1, 203-pound junior who was at star before moving to strong safety after the injury to Jackson last season, has already had a boatload of honors, including Freshman All-America in 2015 and first team All-America last year. He is the all-time Alabama leader in interceptions returned for touchdowns with four and returned one of his interceptions from the end zone for a 100-yard TD runback against Arkansas last year. Last season he had six interception returns for 186 yards and two touchdowns after returning two interceptions for 88 yards and two TDs in 2015. He also had 7 pass breakups, caused a fumble, and was in on 66 tackles, including 1 sack and 5 total for lost yardage.
Also returning is starting weakside safety junior Ronnie Harrison (6-3, 216), who was the Tide’s second-leading tackler last year with 86. Harrison had two pass interceptions, one of which he returned 58 yards for a touchdown in a win at Tennessee. He also had two fumble recoveries, returning one of them 55 yards for a touchdown against Kentucky. Harrison also blocked a field goal attempt by LSU as Bama shut out the Tigers, 10-0. Hew broke up 7 passes and had 2 quarterback pressures.
Harrison was also a standout on special teams, with 8 tackles along with the blocked field goal attempt.
Also returning and possibilities at either a safety position or at Star or Money are Tony Brown, Hootie Jones, and Denote Thompson.
After an NCAA-mandated four-game suspension last year, Brown moved in as a backup safety. He started the seven games of the year at Star following the injury to Jackson. Brown (6-0, 198, Senior) was in on 32 tackles, including 2 1/2 for loss, and 2 interceptions which he returned for 9 yards.
Jones played in every game at safety and dime last year and had a couple of starts. Jones (6-2, 215, Senior) was in on 20 tackles, broke up 5 passes, and recovered a fumble.
Thompson, who is capable of being either a wide receiver or defensive back, played in the secondary and on special teams in 14 games as a redshirt freshman last year. Thompson (6-2, 190) was in on 9 tackles.
Jared Mayden (6-0, 200, sophomore) played in four games last year on special teams and in the secondary. He had one tackle and broke up one pass.
Spring practice will also include two members of the 2017 signing class who entered the University for the spring semester. they are Xavier McKinney (6-1, 185) and Daniel Wright (6-1, 187).
McKinney was ranked the number 11 safety in the nation by Scout.com. He was the Defensive Player of the Year in Georgia.
Wright was ranked the 15th best safety prospect in the nation by Scout.com.Alabama is scheduled to begin spring practice Tuesday, March 21. The A-Day Game will be April 22.

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