By (Cody Estremera)

HOOVER– Alabama lost seven of its starting defensive players last year to the NFL draft, leaving a hole in the team. However, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick isn’t too worried.

“We just had the number one recruiting class, so we always have talent,” Fitzpatrick said at SEC Media Days last week.

Fitzpatrick feels this is his time to be the leader.

“Last year I had a leadership role, but I wasn’t the leader of the defense,” Fitzpatrick said. ”This year I feel like I have to be more vocal and step into that role.”

Fitzpatrick is entering his junior season, and has been a starter all three years. Last season he finished fourth on the team with 66 tackles (41 solo, 25 assisted), was second on the team in pass breakups (8) and led the team with six interceptions.

He scored two of Alabama’s 11 defensive touchdowns.

Fitzpatrick was named a first team All-American last season by the Associated Press, and first team All-SEC. This year, he has already been named to eight preseason award watch lists, including the Maxwell Award, which is given to the best player in college that season, and the Jim Thorpe Award watch list, which is given to the defensive back of the year.

He was also named the first team All-SEC team this year, which was voted on by the journalists at SEC Media Days.

However, even with all the award watch lists he’s been named to, Fitzpatrick is focused on the upcoming season.

“(Florida State is) probably one of the best teams and one of the best legacies in college football,” Fitzpatrick said. “We don’t get to see them a lot, so when we play each other, it’s going to be a great game. I think it will be a lot of fun to play.”

The Florida State game kicks off Alabama’s quest to avenge its 35-31 loss to Clemson in last year’s college football national championship.

“You always learn from a loss, and if you don’t, then that’s on you,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’re definitely using the motivation, and we’re not letting small things slide. That’s the reason we lost last year because we let little things slide towards the end of the season and the championship game. We lost because of small details.”

Alabama plays Florida State on Sept. 2 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports