Reuben Foster, Jonathan Allen and Minkah Fitzpatrick won’t be breaking a huddle for Alabama this fall. But they may still have an impact on the defense you see this season.
Each of those first-round picks has been mentioned as a mentor to some of the defensive players expected to take a bigger role for the Crimson Tide this fall.
“When Mack (Wilson) first came in — we came in together — a lot of us got people take us under our wings,” defensive lineman Quinnen Williams said. “I got Jon Allen. He got Reuben Foster. So we really develop our games after those guys and you can see the characteristics from Reuben passed on to him, which makes him a better player. He’s been a really great player for us.”
Williams has also mentioned defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne as a player who helped prepare him for a role inside.
Cornerback Trevon Diggs frequently spent time warming up with Fitzpatrick before Alabama’s games last season. Away from the eyes at Bryant-Denny Stadium, they spent more time together.
“Practicing with Minkah before the games and stuff, it helped me a lot,” Diggs said. “Even before the games or even after practice, me and Minkah would go to the sand pit and work on our feet and stuff like that. Little things, it just helped me keep carrying that over. He was teaching me more stuff, now I can teach the young guys the same thing which will keep going on after that.”
Williams, Diggs and Wilson are all projected to be first-year starters for Alabama’s defense, though each played a role last season. Now they’re also part of the system that can help some of their younger teammates help them as they were helped.
“I tell every freshman that comes in here, you’ve got to be ready to play,” Wilson said. “No ifs, ands or buts about it. You have to learn your stuff and you have to play fast. You know, you can’t go out and play on the college football field in today’s world and not know what you’re doing.”