Recruiting Roundup: Versatile Minkah Fitzpatrick highlights CB evolution
JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Keeping track of Minkah Fitzpatrick on the field is a bewildering experience. On one play, the five-star sensation will shadow a receiver, matching him step for step. On the next, Fitzpatrick may jet into the backfield on a blitz. Sometimes he even catches passes or takes handoffs, and he can return punts and kicks, too.
Fitzpatrick’s range of skills can be a lot to process, which begs the question: What position, or positions, will he play in college?
“He can do a lot of things,” Rich Hansen, Fitzpatrick’s coach at St. Peter’s (N.J.) Prep -- ranked No. 12 in the MaxPreps Composite Top 25 rankings -- told SI.com on Monday, a few days after Fitzpatrick made key contributions on both sides of the ball in the Marauders’ 49-20 rout of Bergen Catholic. “Players like him provide a lot of flexibility for coaches, and that translates into not making a mistake. You have the luxury of being able to plug him into different spots and still be effective.”
Fitzpatrick, the No. 3 cornerback in the class of 2015, according to rankings on the recruiting website Rivals.com, verbally committed to Alabama in April. He has good size (6-foot-1, 194 pounds) and speed (he was clocked at 4.51 in the 40-yd dash this summer) for his position and possesses excellent coverage skills. Fitzpatrick rarely gets the chance to show them off, though, because teams don’t throw a lot of passes in his direction.
At safety, where Fitzpatrick is positioned in the middle of the field, he has more opportunities to impact more plays, and opposing coaches have a tougher time directing plays away from him. Safety could be a better fit for Fitzpatrick in college, given his size and skill set. That notion seems more likely once you consider that two five-star cornerbacks, Marlon Humphrey and Tony Brown, enrolled at Alabama this year.
Fitzpatrick said Alabama has mentioned the possibility of him playing safety. (Others schools have brought up offensive positions.) Yet it’s not hard to see why the Tide would want Fitzpatrick to play cornerback. The value of size and length at that position has been brought into clearer focus of late; Fitzpatrick, for his part, says one of the two players he models his play after is the 6-foot-3 Richard Sherman. (The other is Deion Sanders.)
For a more pertinent example, consider last year’s game between Alabama and Texas A&M, in which the 6-foot-5 Mike Evans burned the Crimson Tide’s secondary for 279 yards and a touchdown.
Fitzpatrick is hardly the only big elite cornerback in the 2015 class. The three other corners in the top four of Rivals.com’s rankings -- Iman Marshall, Kevin Toliver and Tarvarus McFadden -- are all at least 6-1.
“They need guys that can compete with the taller receivers,” said Adam Friedman, the Mid-Atlantic Recruiting Analyst for Rivals.com. “Minkah really fits the bill. He’s got excellent feet, extremely fluid when changing directions, great nose for the ball, extremely intelligent football player, great at anticipating throws, even baiting quarterbacks into bad throws.”
While Fitzpatrick is committed to Alabama, he took an unofficial visit to Penn State last month with St. Peter’s quarterback and Nittany Lions commit Brandon Wimbush and has tentative plans to visit State College again, as well as Alabama and Florida State, before National Signing Day. Fitzpatrick, who said he has yet to schedule any official visits, may also visit a couple of other schools but declined to name which he is considering.
“You always have to keep your options open, because you never know what could happen,” Fitzpatrick told SI.com. “It’s one of the biggest decisions in your life, and you just want to make sure that you’re 110 percent sure with what you’re doing.”
Regardless of what school Fitzpatrick ultimately signs with -- a person close to him suggested Fitzpatrick may be taking visits merely to reaffirm his conviction in Alabama -- his athleticism, versatility and football smarts foretell a promising college career.
Around the nation
- Jayru Campbell, the quarterback from Detroit, Mich., who was caught on video body slamming a security guard at his high school, was arrested hours after being released from prison. The Detroit Free Press reported that Campbell, 17, was seen physically assaulting his girlfriend. He was then arrested by Detroit Public Schools. Campbell was sentenced to 60 days in prison for the body-slamming incident as part of a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of aggravated assault (the initial charge was felony assault with intent to do great bodily harm). He also faced a one-game suspension to open the season for Cass Technical (Mich.) High after punching an opposing player in the handshake line following a loss in the state semifinals. Campbell, who reportedly was arraigned Saturday on multiple charges stemming from his latest incident, pleaded not guilty Tuesday. He had been committed to Michigan State but has re-opened his recruitment. It’s fair to wonder, however, whether Campbell will ever play Division I football.
- Ithaca (Mich.) High was in danger of losing for the first time in 59 games Friday night against Michigan Lutheran. But the Yellowjackets overcame a halftime deficit and scored 20 unanswered points to win 33-14 and preserve the nation’s longest active winning streak. The streak is the second longest ever in Michigan. How long Ithaca can keep its winning ways alive remains to be seen, as the Yellowjackets returned only three offensive starters from last season.
- St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) High, which features multiple high-level Division I prospects and checked in at No. 1 in the MaxPreps Top 25 Football Composite Rankings last week, was upset by No. 16 Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) 24-7 at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. The Ironmen also beat St. Thomas in 2012. Dating to the start of the 2008 season, St. Thomas has gone 8-0 against all other teams outside the state of Florida. "I don't even have words," junior defensive end Nick Bosa said, according to the Sun Sentinel. "We definitely came in way too confident, and it showed. They're definitely the best-coached team I've ever played -- 100 times better than their team back in 2012. They were tough."
- In the absence of a caption, let’s attempt an explanation. Baker County (Fla.) High defensive end CeCe Jefferson was in the Florida locker room following the Gators’ triple-overtime win over Kentucky on Saturday night. Jefferson, who was visiting Gainesville for the third consecutive weekend, left his high school game a day earlier with a shoulder injury (he later returned to the sidelines). But what’s going on with the Chucky doll? Jefferson appears to be taking up a tradition started by former Gator (and current New England Patriot) Dominique Easley and continued by Dante Fowler Jr. Last week Jefferson, the No. 2 strongside defensive end in the class of 2015, tweeted five schools he “might” take official visits to: UCLA, Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU and Cincinnati. Jefferson added that Georgia is also a possibility.
- Midwest City (Okla.) High defensive back Will Sunderland committed to Oklahoma. Sunderland is the No. 8 safety in the class of 2015.
- Lake Braddock Secondary School (Va.) wide receiver Aramis “A.J.” Alexander committed to Ohio State. Alexander is the No. 69 wide receiver in the class of 2015.
- Smiths Station (High.) linebacker Amonte Caban committed to Louisville. Caban is the No. 15 inside linebacker in the class of 2015.
- Nashville Christian School (Tenn.) senior offensive lineman Alex Givens committed to Ole Miss.
- Union City (N.J.) High hybrid Daiquan Kelly flipped his commitment from Syracuse to Penn State. Kelly is the No. 32 athlete in the class of 2015.
- DeSoto (Texas) High sophomore quarterback Jaylin Nelson, playing in place of the injured Tristen Wallace, completed 16 of 19 pass attempts for 193 yards and five touchdowns while adding 77 rushing yards and two scores on the ground in a 53-13 win over South Oak Cliff (Texas) High.
- Penn State quarterback commit Brandon Wimbush completed 19 of 24 pass attempts for 330 yards and five touchdowns while adding 72 rushing yards and one score on the ground to lead St. Peter’s (N.J.) Prep to a 49-20 win over Bergen Catholic (N.J.) High.
All rankings according to Rivals.com