Alabama’s All-Decade Team: Minkah Fitzpatrick leads dominant defense
Editor’s note: Saturday Down South has selected an all-decade offensive and defensive team for all 14 SEC programs. Our series started in the SEC West with Alabama. Coming Tuesday: Arkansas.
Thinking back on the past decade of Alabama Crimson Tide football, the one constant has been a fast, dominant, suffocating defense.
The Tide has won 5 SEC titles and 4 national titles in the past 10 seasons largely on the back of a defense hand-crafted by Nick Saban to dominate the SEC and become a de facto NFL feeder system (42 defensive players were selected in the past 9 drafts, with more to come).
Many of Alabama’s 35 players who won 38 first-team All-American honors — including Mark Barron and Minkah Fitzpatrick twice — came on the defensive side of the ball. Making the selection of 11 first-team All-Decade players a challenging process.
The criteria for this is simple: It’s all about what each player did at Alabama, from the 2010 season through the 2019 season. NFL careers are irrelevant, and longevity doesn’t matter.
Without further adieu, here is Saturday Down South’s Alabama Crimson Tide All-Decade Defense:
DE: Jonathan Allen
Why: Returning to Alabama for his senior season in 2016 trying to win back-to-back national titles, Allen finished his career ranked 2nd in Alabama history for career sacks with 28.5 (-205 yards) behind only College and Pro Football Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas. Allen won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award and Ted Hendricks Award, was a finalist for the Lombardi Award, the Walter Camp Player of the Year and Lott IMPACT Trophy, and finished 7thin the Heisman Trophy voting.
He was 1 of 14 Alabama defensive players drafted in the 1st round this decade.
Backup: Quinton Dial
Why: A JUCO transfer in 2011, Dial finished with a total of 46 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a huge, legal block on Georgia QB Aaron Murray in 2012 SEC title game.
NT: Quinnen Williams
Why: With 56 solo tackles, 91 total tackles and 10 sacks in just 2 seasons in the middle of the Tide defense, Williams was a force during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Williams won the Outland Trophy in 2018 as the nation’s best interior lineman, as his 20 tackles for loss that season were for 2nd in the SEC, and his 8 sacks were tied for 6th in the conference.
Backup: Da’Ron Payne
Why: Payne was named the defensive MVP of both postseason games that Alabama played in 2017, the Sugar Bowl and the National Championship game — a game that saw Payne record 6 tackles to help lead Alabama to their 2nd national title in 3 seasons.
DE: Jesse Williams
Why: “The Monstar,” the Australian-born Williams was a beast for 2 seasons at Alabama and was at the time the first Indigenous Australian to receive a scholarship to play college football in the United States. He recorded 61 total tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss in 26 starts en route to winning 2 national titles in 2011 and 2012.
Backup: A’Shawn Robinson
Why: Robinson was also the only true freshman under coach Nick Saban at Alabama to lead the team in sacks, snagging 5.5 in 2013. Started 29 consecutive games in 2014 and 2015, finishing his career with 133 total tackles.
LB: Dont’a Hightower
Why: In the top 5 greatest Alabama linebackers not named Derrick Brooks, Hightower started 43 of the 45 games he was healthy for during his time in Tuscaloosa. As a junior in 2010, Hightower made 30 solo tackles and 70 total tackles, and as a senior in 2011 he made 40 solo tackles, 85 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 4 sacks.
Backup: Mack Wilson
Why: An instinctive, hard-hitting linebacker in the middle for Alabama, Wilson totaled 71 tackles, including 4.5 for a loss and 1 sack as a junior in 2018.
LB: C.J. Mosley
Why: Mosley was a beast for 3 years in the Alabama defense, recording 175 solo tackles and 317 total tackles from 2010-2013. Mosley also made 23.5 tackles for loss and 6 sacks in that time. He was a freshman All-American in 2010, a consensus All-American in 2012, and was a 2-time All-American along the Butkus Award winner and SEC co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2013.
Backup: Reggie Ragland
Why: In just 1 year as a starter (he played alongside Reuben Foster in 2013), Ragland made 46 solo tackles, 93 total tackles and 10.5 tackles for loss in 2014.
LB: Reuben Foster
Why: The 2016 Butkus Award winner, Foster took over as starting inside linebacker from Trey DePriest as a sophomore in 2014 and finished 2nd on the team with 73 total tackles, 8 for a loss on the season. Foster played 2 more seasons in Tuscaloosa, and as a senior in 2016 he finished with 115 tackles, 13 for losses, and 5 sacks.
Backup: Trey DePriest
Why: A 3-year starter from 2012-2014, DePriest finished his career with 94 solo tackles, 189 total stops and 16 tackles for loss.
LB: Courtney Upshaw
Why: In his 2010 junior season, Upshaw started 11 games and accounted for 52 total tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 7 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. In his senior season, Upshaw started all 13 games and piled up 51 total tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Upshaw was named the defensive MVP of the 2011 BCS championship game win over LSU via his 7-tackle performance, which included 1 sack and 1 tackle for a loss.
Backup: Rashaan Evans
Why: In 4 seasons at Alabama, Evans appeared in 53 games with 14 starts and totaled 152 tackles, 15.0 sacks, 23.5 tackles for loss, 5 passes defended, 19 quarterback hurries, 2 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries.
CB: Dre Kirkpatrick
Why: A 2-year starter from 2010 and 2011, Kirkpatrick had swag for days and showed it for Alabama on every play. He finished his career with 65 solo tackles and 91 total stops. His 3-interception sophomore season in 2010 helped propel the Tide to a 10-3 season, and Kirkpatrick’s lock-down style helped push Alabama to the 2012 national title.
Backup: Dee Milliner
Why: Milliner started 11 of 13 games as a true freshman in 2010, then started all 12 as a junior in 2012 en route to a 2nd consecutive national title. He made 88 solo tackles and 133 total stops in his career.
CB: Minkah Fitzpatrick
Why: Regarded as one of the top defensive backs in Alabama history, Fitzpatrick finished as the Bednarik and Thorpe award winner — the 2nd recipient of each award in Crimson Tide history, and he became just the 3rd player in NCAA history to win both awards in the same season, joining eventual NFL Hall of Famer Charles Woodson and current Arizona Cardinals All-Pro Patrick Peterson. Made 110 solo tackles, 171 total stops, 16.5 tackles for loss, 5 sacks and 9 interceptions.
Backup: Marlon Humphrey
Why: In 2 seasons as a starter, Humphrey made 35 solo tackles, 45 total stops and 3 interceptions as a redshirt freshman in 2015, and then went for 26 solo tackles, 36 total stops and 2 interceptions in 2016.
SS: Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix
Why: Starting 19 of the 38 games he played in during his 3 seasons at Alabama, Clinton-Dix led Alabama with 5 interceptions in 2012 as a sophomore. He finished his junior year with 51 tackles and 2 interceptions en route to 1st-team All-SEC honors despite missing 2 games to suspension.
Backup: Landon Collins
Why: Collins turned in a beastly season in 2014, recording 60 solo tackles and 103 total stops. He finished his career with 122 solo tackles, 190 total stops and 5 interceptions.
FS: Mark Barron
Why: Barron started his final 39 games at Alabama en route to All-American honors in 2010 and 2011. He finished with 88 solo tackles, 237 total tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 5 sacks and 12 interceptions.
Backup: Deionte Thompson
Why: Thompson made 79 stops, including a team-high 48 solo tackles, and added 3.5 tackles for loss as a junior in 2018.
RELATED: Alabama’s All-Decade Offensive Team